As the new year gets underway, the Belgian organic top fruit market situation does not differ much from how things are going with conventional cultivation. "Apples are struggling. That's not news to many, but as of January 2023, sales are about 30% lower than last year around this time. That was 60% at the beginning of the season, so it's a slight improvement. But, it's no cause for celebration," says Gerard Kenens of the organic farm Verken Bio Deli-Vers.
"I don't see this changing anytime soon either. We still have a significant number of apples in cold stores. For Jonagold (and variants), that's even the whole first and some of the second picking. The quality is genuinely excellent, but if sales don't rise, we'll simply never sell them."
Gerard doubts competition from abroad is causing these limited sales. "There's plenty of competition from Poland and Italy, but that's no different from other years. People seem to be eating somewhat fewer apples. I suspect that has to do with the individual families' rising costs, making them a little less likely to buy fruit," he explains.
Verken Bio Deli-Vers grows its organic apples (Natyra, Jonagold, Jonagored, and Santana) and pears (Qtee and Conference) on roughly 21 hectares. The company sells its fruit on demand. You can sell conventional crops at auction; not so organic. "Pears sales are going well for now. Organic Qtee pears are popular in Belgium, and Conference pears are also selling nicely. Current sales volumes are on par with 2021, which compensates somewhat for the difficulties in the apple market."
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Gerard, however, remains optimistic. "Our and many fellow growers' Natyra apples are still in cold storage. We should start selling those around April/May," he continues. "We always market this variety a little later, leaving room for other varieties. I think these taste great, and they look wonderful."
"They are of good size, too, and we managed to harvest between 30 and 40 tons this year, which is excellent. Whether Natyra will sell well remains to be seen, but we must keep believing people will enjoy more delicious local fruit. Especially with how the Natyras taste, I'm confident of good sales towards the end of the season," Gerard concludes.
For more information:
VerKen Bio Deli-Vers
74 Zilveren-Helmen Street
3545, Loksbergen, BE
Tel: +32 (0) 474 199 809