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Strong demand wraps up French apple season early
“We finished with most varieties about one to two months earlier than normal,” said Marc Peyres of Blue Whale. “That's because there was good demand and much less fruit available in Western Europe.” That made for high prices throughout the season, and despite those high prices, demand still outstripped supplies. Demand was so strong that supplies would have been exhausted even sooner had suppliers not raised prices further during the middle of the season.
“In Europe, we started with high prices because of less fruit,” he said. “But after two months we had to increase prices to slow down demand because we couldn't supply everyone.” That was the case for the domestic market and export markets. Peyres added that, even with suppliers in Eastern Europe picking up the slack on some varieties of apples, it didn't cut much into their exports because of the different quality tiers in which growers there operate.
“The cost of apples from countries like Poland is cheap, but the kind of apples they produce are not competitive with our apples in terms of quality and taste,” said Peyres. “So they don't really have a big influence on the markets in which we operate.” The challenges in their export markets come more from overextending themselves in markets it might be unwise to pursue too vigorously. Asia, for example, though a promising area for many Western European exporters, has a set of challenges that are not easy to overcome.
“Some Asian countries are setting new protocols for entry of fruit,” explained Peyres. The rules put in place can serve to protect the local market by making it hard for foreign fruit to enter. That could make it hard for exporters to penetrate those markets, as it would take much work to be within new protocols, otherwise, it would require a collective effort by European countries to negotiate easier entry rules.
Similarly, shipping to Asia is becoming harder, and with competition from countries that are closer to Asia, European suppliers are a disadvantage. Additionally, most European fruit that goes to Asia occupies a niche market for people who want high-quality apples. If too much of that fruit suddenly finds itself in Asian markets, those niche markets could turn sour quickly. Though it's not much of an issue this year, when supplies were tight even for the European market, future seasons will definitely include Asia as something European suppliers should consider, but which they should consider carefully.
“Everybody dreams of Asia, but if you try to increase too quickly it can be a disaster,” said Peyres. “Asia is a good market, but it can be risky.”
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