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Good prospects ahead for apples in Europe

French apple growers are hopeful that the second part of the European season will be even better than the first. Volumes have recovered from last year, but more fortuitous, there has been a better currency exchange rate and brisk sales that have made for better returns.

“The quality of apples is good and there are excellent conditions for harvesting,” said Marc Peyres of Blue Whale. “So that is, first of all, a good point. The start of the season was good, and if it continues this way this could be one of the best seasons in the last ten years.” The size of the crop this season is bigger than last season's, though that was expected given that the previous one was a short crop, in France, returns have also been better, with Marc reporting an increase in net returns of up to 30 percent for Blue Whale so far, on some varieties.

“The euro is not weak, but we are close to having a normal valuation for the euro,” said Marc. “When the euro was strong, we weren't doing as well. But we are once again competitive with this exchange rate.” Certain varieties are still struggling in terms of movement, especially those that had stocks left over from the previous harvest. Other varieties, like Galas, are almost certain to have good seasons, especially on the back end of the marketing season.

“We cannot have an active market in September or October unless we have a short crop,” explained Marc. “A lot of people have to move a lot of fruit or there has to be a big shortage for there to be an exceptional market before November. The market now is quite nice, so the prospect for our main varieties in winter look very good.” There are rumblings that volumes in Europe and the United States may not be as big as expected, and, if true, that would further improve the market this winter.

No new markets, but not all markets open
Blue Whale's shipments to Asia have increased over the years and development of African markets continue. Both of those continents are far from being saturated with European fruit, and the latter still requires years of work before Blue Whale can ship large volumes there. But the focus is no longer on discovering new markets as much as developing the ones that are there.

“We sell apples everywhere, so there are not a lot of new territories in the world,” said Marc. “So many markets are already open that we have to develop new varieties to continue growing.” One market that is currently closed to European shippers is Russia. The ban on goods still stands, and Marc said they just have to continue operating without Russia as an option and compensate in other areas. The United States, however, is a market that, while open to European apples, is not economically viable for most shippers.

“We signed a trade protocol to open up the United States to our apples, but, under the current protocol, there is no interest in shipping there,” said Marc. “We shipped a little last year and we will ship a little this year in order to learn about the protocol and then try to negotiate something better. We cannot spend 20 years doing nothing, we have to work for the future, so we go with this protocol as a first step. But it's not feasible to send fruit over there with an additional cost. It cannot work economically, so we hope there are some pragmatic people in the U.S. who will help us open that market up.”

For more information:
Marc Peyres
Blue Whale SAS
Tel: +33 5 63 21 56 56

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