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Sebastiaan Koren, Koren Import & Export:

"In five years, I would ideally have ten trucks continuously transporting fruit and vegetables between the Netherlands and the Balkans"

With a Slovenian father and a Dutch mother, Sebastiaan Koren is intimately familiar with both the Dutch market and the Balkans. From an early age, he harbored plans to initiate import and export activities between the two regions. His first venture involved trying to sell three large hams to the Dutch hospitality industry. When that endeavor failed to yield results, he rented a van for 2,500 euros to sell 1,000 kilos of mandarins from Croatia in the Netherlands. Although this venture was not immediately profitable, it led him into the fruit and vegetable trade, resulting in the birth of Koren Import & Export.

Today, Koren Import & Export brings fruit from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Serbia to the Netherlands, all sourced from GlobalGAP-certified growers. "My great advantage is that I've been coming to this region all my life. I speak the language, understand how people work, and know that you have to dine and drink with them at least five times before anything concrete materializes. This is a crucial foundation for doing business in the Balkans, allowing me to more swiftly penetrate the supplier network," Sebastiaan explains.

He has recently started exporting Bulgarian cherries. "Picking for export has just begun here. I have about 200,000 kilos to sell," says Sebastiaan. "So far, the season looks promising, but cherries are always a challenging product. A hailstorm or downpour can suddenly end everything, but hopefully, we can continue to supply Bulgarian cherries for at least another month."

Satsumas from Croatia
He is currently busy expanding his range to include watermelons, peaches, and nectarines. "From the end of May to the beginning of December, we are continuously busy with imports to the Netherlands," Sebastiaan shares. Last season, he also started importing Satsuma mandarins from Croatia. "This is practically the only fruit that grows in large volumes in Croatia. These mandarins are deliciously sweet and juicy, though they don't have a very long shelf life."

According to him, there is definite interest from Dutch wholesalers. "More and more Dutch people are vacationing in Slovenia and Croatia. There, they discover the exquisite products these countries offer. However, these products are rarely seen in Dutch stores, primarily because the cultivation is on a smaller scale. Thanks to my direct contact with many producers, we can introduce these products from these countries to the Dutch market."

The interplay between import and export
Simultaneously, he exports overseas products to the Balkans from the Netherlands, such as pineapples, avocados, and grapefruits. "This is becoming more structured. Both the Balkans and the Netherlands, with all its re-export activities, have a lot to offer each other. I find this interplay between import and export fascinating. In five years, I would love to have a continuous flow of ten trucks carrying fruits and vegetables between the Netherlands and the Balkans."

The biggest challenge, he believes, lies in the financial aspect. "You need start-up capital to build something. I started small but think big. Fortunately, more and more Dutch companies are realizing the benefits of my direct purchasing from growers, which guarantees them freshness, quality, and lower prices!"

For more information:
Sebastiaan Koren
Koren Import & Export
Strevelsweg 700
3083 AS Rotterdam
Tel: +31 102613237
[email protected]

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