The price of fruits and vegetables is a much discussed topic. In the eyes of the consumer it is often still 'too expensive'. That is not the case, at least not according to Hein Deprez, Guy Claessens and Jos van Dessel, three men heavily involved in the fruit and vegetable sector. This topic was discussed at the first national Belgian food debate on September 29th.

Hein Deprez
"Fruits and vegetable are dirt cheap," emphasizes Hein Deprez. "Lets take tomatoes as an example. Today dozens of tomato varieties are being put on the market all with different taste and quality. Along with taste, price is an important factor. The best tasting tomatoes cost more and the majority of people do not see this. The consumers that talk the most about quality and taste are not putting the correct price on the table. People need to be conscious so that a fair price is being paid for these products. I will continue to say it: fruits and vegetables are dirt cheap. It does not start with the supplier or the producer, but with the education of the consumer. The fruit and vegetable sector does not have the power nor the resources because we are too fragmented. The government has to steer this."

Hein Deprez, Jos van Dessel and Guy Claessens

Jos van Dessel
Jos van Dessel from BelOrta completely agrees with Deprez, "We want to offer consumers a fair and correct product. The sector is a service company that lies between the grower and the store. We do not have a hand in what goes on between the retail world and the producers. Sometimes steps are passed over and we do not always get a hold of that. For example, sometimes a 50 cent product is suddenly 3.50."

Guy Claessens
Guy Claessens from Claessens Wholesale talked about the misunderstanding that many customers have. "We do see the groups who follow the seasons and understand what influence fruits and vegetables can have. But there is still a group of people that do not know the seasons and do not accept that we cannot deliver because for example there is no supply due to weather conditions. Sometimes it is really difficult. Consumers in a restaurant are very critical so restaurant owners are very critical of us. A product that is not so expensive for a producer, has to be sold at an expensive cost because everyone is so critical and cannot accept that a zucchini is crooked or that there is a little fungus on a raspberry."

Something has to happen in order to get the right message across to consumers and to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Hein Deprez does not see that happening anytime soon unless the government intervenes. "We are too fragmented here in the fruit and vegetable sector to make a wave. We also cannot do it as a company. Univeg is one of the big world players, but we only represent a small percent of the total sales of fruits and vegetables in Europe. This is why the government needs to take up their responsibility. This is a societal problem. Consumers need a very clear message."

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