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Jack Aartsen, Hein Deprez, Ervé Jooken, Dammis van der Staaij and Mart Valstar

Christmas 2016: Five fresh produce traders, four answers

Christmas 2016 is almost here. Time to reflect and look ahead. That is what we will do with Jack Aartsen (Aartsenfruit), Hein Deprez (Greenyard Foods), Ervé Jooken (Frans Michiels Belgium), Dammis van der Staaij (Staay Food Group) and Mart Valstar (Best Fresh Group). In short: How was 2016, and what will 2017 be? 

Jack Aartsen

Which event had the most impact on you as a person?
Jack: There have been private matters that have had an impact on me, naturally, but those I will keep private. Professionally, there have been people within Aartsenfruit that were less fortunate in 2016, and that affects the entire organisation. The involvement within our company is very large.

Hein: I was personally surprised by the result of the Brexit referendum and Trump’s victory in the American elections. These results indicate that the extreme body of thought is flourishing more and more, and I feel as if people are becoming less tolerant. 

Ervé: This is not a difficult question, though it is one that should never be forgotten. The IS attacks in Brussels on 22 March this year. Zaventem and Maalbeek experienced their darkest hours. If I am not mistaken, 32 people died! A day that should never be forgotten.

Dammis: The war in Syria, and all the problems for the people there and the refugees in the camps in Europe, such as in France, and how these people have to survive.

Mart: The youngest of three children moved to Amsterdam to study in September, and considering I am a convivial person, that was quite hard. In (political) society, I think the choice for Brexit and Trump are remarkable, it seems a choice against other subjects that we do not delve into too much, and made from inappropriate dissatisfaction. And this was also the case in 2015, but the incomprehension for (true) refugees and the inhospitable election rhetoric about the displacement of our hard-working neighbours in the east who do work unemployed people would not even want to do.

Hein Deprez

And which event had most impact on your company/the fresh produce sector?
Jack: The high quotation in the Hillenraad was a nice surprise, and appreciation for everyone within Aartsenfruit. 

Hein: We are very happy with the increasing awareness of consumers that eating more fruits and vegetables is important in a balanced diet and contributes to their health. The strength of this fruits and vegetables story, carried by the consumers, brings a positive turn in the entire supply chain and our sector.

Ervé: The introduction of the compulsory road tax on lorries for certain parts of the road network in Belgium. Many thought it was an April Fool's joke, but that was not the case.

Dammis: Moving to Papendrecht, and all of the advantages that came with that.

Mart: The climatological effect on our sector: the hail of 23 May and the cold second week of July in our most important production country, as well as supply consequences due to El Niño in South America, with a rising demand for avocados. The fall and limited recovery of the pound as a result of Brexit. The BFG Award I awarded to my father who is getting on in age.

Ervé Jooken

What will you serve on Christmas Day?
Jack: For me, Christmas is truly a family affair. On Christmas Day I will join my wife’s family for dinner, and on Boxing Day I will organise dinner for the Aartsen family. Good food, good people and good wine, what more could you want?

Hein: Plenty of fruits and vegetables, naturally. Chicory with the first course (fish), winter vegetables including parsnip and mushrooms for the main course (game), and winter fruit and something sweet for dessert.

Ervé: I do not know personally, it depends on what the missus will prepare. A bit of turkey with some vegetables and potato croquettes always do well.

Dammis: Everything from the ‘waters of Zeeland.’

Mart: All kinds of vegetables varied with fish and meat dishes which we will serve and eat. By now, we also care about health and activity, so we prefer quality over quantity!

Dammis van der Staaij

How do you feel about 2017?
Jack: Very positively. All the Aartsenfruit branches have experienced an increase in the past year, and we feel very confident about continuing in that line in 2017. Filling job vacancies and modernisations in IT are big challenges for us.

Hein: The management team of Greenyard is very positive about 2017. We have a ton of ideas which we want to turn into projects that will be implemented in our organisation, and we want to work on this with a lot of passion.

Ervé: Positive, definitely, although it is also about being lucky. I always say: good health is as a foundation for a house, the stronger the foundation, the better the house. 

Dammis: Full of confidence, we are looking forward to the future.

Mart: Full of confidence, and with great plans. ‘Most things will go well,’ people sometimes say, but because of our size, that is not always the case. But the bumps we had in 2015 and 2016 have been solved by now, and we are heading into 2017 with complete health!

Mart Valstar

Authors: Gertrude Snoei and Izak Heijboer
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