Rien van Doorn (61) from Neerijnen is a fruit grower, has both feet in the clay in the Betuwe, but is also the chairman of the Fruitmasters cooperation in Geldermalsen. He sees the market for top fruit changing rapidly, partially due to the Russian boycott of European fruit. "Growers are disappointed in the compensation arrangements from the government, whilst the market has collapsed completely."
"We have had a good few years as a fruit sector, but at the moment the prices for varieties like Jonagold or Elstar aren't good. Luckily, the Kanzi is keeping its prices. I think that the future of the fruit cultivation in this region and the rest of the company is in club varieties.
Of course, the production costs are a little higher, but a good price is paid for this quality. My brother and I have 15 hectares of orchards, with Conference, Elstar, Kazi and Jonagold. Dutch and Belgian growers have a gorgeous product with the Conference. The challenge is in marketing. That market is not in Eastern Europe right now, but Fruitmasters has been working on markets in the Middle East, Far East, South America and the US for a while now.
The regular varieties aren't making enough at the moment, the compensation due to the boycott is too far below the costing price. Those 6 or 7 cents growers are keeping per kilo is disappointing for them. All the factors are coming together at the moment: there are still unsold stocks on the market, the harvest is almost a month early and the boycott. We are in the most expensive place in the world for cultivation, ground price and sustainability requirements. A grower is used to setbacks, but the situation at the moment is serious. However, there are still opportunities, as a sales organisation we are trying to approach an as wide as possible market, and with success. Our future is in the export of club variety apples. The European market remains important, this is who we grow the regular variety apples and the Conference pear for. But top quality is a must. If every European were to eat a kilo of fruit more per year, the whole sector whole be fixed in a flash."