"France: "Extra quality always sells"

The French cauliflower export season has started again at Kampexport. "The prices are under pressure at the moment. Many cultivations have been difficult over the last year and this has extended cauliflower product. That's why it's not working out with all the auctioning, packaging and transport costs," says Theo Kamschoer, who started the company Kampexport in 1969 in Brittany. "But if there's a few days frost in other areas of production, the situation can change. It can't be predicted."

Theo and his son Willem Kampschoer

According to Theo, Brittany's micro climate is the cauliflower cultivation's saving grace. "It means we can produce at times other production areas can't. We can grow cauliflower pretty much all year round and are hardly bothered by frost. Now we're entering the market with large numbers and there is still enough cauliflower in Eastern European countries like Poland and Slovakia, but if it dips to -10 for a few days, we'll have a huge amount of buying countries in two weeks! That's why you can't predict what the market will do. It's largely dependent on the weather conditions and the supply from Italy and Spain."

Control of the cauliflower

Fresh every day
Theo expects the number of French exports to decline even further over the next few years. "You just need to keep serving your customers well. We don't stock up and start afresh every day. That's why we always work Saturday and Sunday for the fresh deliveries to Eastern European countries. Extra quality always sells. But you have to do a lot to stay afloat."

Cauliflower storage

The thought that is predominant in Holland is that the French cauliflower is small, but the exporter says this is not true for the cauliflower that is on the market right now. "But the hibernating cauliflower which is on the field for six to eight months, does sell a bit more than the Spanish cauliflower which is harvested in two to three months. In France the cauliflower is planted in July and harvested in April," says Theo. The advantage of the auction in Brittany is the opportunity to market large volumes in France, according to the Dutch exporter. "If a customer asks us on Friday to load fifty trucks for Sunday, there aren't many suppliers in Spain and Italy who can do that."

Theo believes you shouldn't overestimate the benefit of carrying the well known brand Prince. "Most customers don't want a brand. And there is cauliflower carried under the Prince de Bretagne that does not meet our quality standards.This is why there was discussion about the colour and hardness of the cauliflower last year. We know where to buy our product and who the best growers are, but it's different at every depot. Our own name and traceability are more important than the Prince de Bretagne brand. We are QS certified and that is a strict standard in the area of phytosanitary control. We are also ISO 22000- 2005 and ISO 9001-2008 certified."

The turnovers of French stonefruit productions are also under pressure, says Theo, who is mainly active in the south of France in the summer. "Spain supplies peaches and nectarines for 50% of what we need here in France. It's difficult to find the best growers who work for us to stay afloat. Last season it was being sold sold to Germany from Spain for 88 cents, whereas the costing price in France was at a level of around 1.40 Euro."

Kampexport focuses on European markets. "We have around forty European wholesalers, who all buy a few pallets per day. Extra quality can always be sold. I've been seeing more and more wholesalers looking for products of exceptional quality in recent years. This is why we extended our customer base again this year."

Another highlight for Kampexport this year was the artichoke season. "We sold more artichokes in one season this summer than all other years put together. It went very well. I also think there is a growth in organic products and new markets in Eastern Europe. Countries like Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary are still developing. The biggest challenge will be to have enough transport available. A lot of transporters went under in this region and it is difficult to make up for this with trucks from other countries."

For more information:
BP 78
29250 St Pol de Léon
Tel: 0033 2 98 69 28 22
Fax: 0033 2 98 29 04 04

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