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Christiaan Reijnders, manager Bejo Spain:

"Spanish open field growers' hope pinned on frost Northern Europe"

Christiaan Reijnders has been working with Bejo for twenty-four years, eighteen years of which in Spain. During Fruit Attraction in Madrid, he shone his light on Spanish open field cultivation. "The golden rule in Spain is that cold weather in Northern Europe, with at least three days of frost, leads to good sales for the Spanish produce. So that's what's being hoped for."

According to the Bejo Iberica manager, the Spanish switch crops easily. "That is the well-known pork cycle. After a difficult year, less is being planted again. This year, more broccoli and a lot more iceberg lettuce was planted, and production of beetroot, carrots and leeks decreased." Although the past open field vegetable season has been called difficult, Reijnders is not under the impression that many growers are forced to quit. "They have to look a bit harder for credit, and they're particularly cautious about planting and sowing outside of contracts."

Christiaan Reijnders and Bart Kuin of Bejo

According to Christiaan, the crisis in Spain does have another consequence for cultivation. "Many people move from the city to the countryside, and a lot more vegetables are being grown in small allotment gardens, causing private individuals to become self-sufficient. Ultimately, that does have some bearing on the market."

Bejo Spain saw significant growth in the last fifteen years in particular, and now has 25 employees. The biggest crops are onions, cabbage, all brassica varieties, carrots and beetroot. With the latter product, Bejo has a market share of no less than 95%. "With onions, we have around 40% of the market, and we're doing very well with cauliflower. With broccoli, we've been less strong traditionally, but that's also starting to get going. We have invested a lot in a testing station in Murcia, and now we are reaping the rewards."

Spanish onion production amounts to 25,000 hectares. The largest onion cultivation area is Castilla-La Mancha. Besides the local market, Spanish onions are mainly supplied to France and the United Kingdom. "Every day of the year, you can harvest fresh onions in Spain. The Grano or Reca onions from Spain are particularly popular. Nowhere else does this typically Spanish onion achieve such a colour, and this onion also has good storability", Christiaan says. "We are also working on setting up a factory for first-year short-day onion sets."

During Fruit Attraction, Bejo expressly promoted 'North Holland' vegetables such as kohlrabi and kale, which are grown in Spain, but hardly consumed there. "There is a trend toward more traditional vegetables now. A kale hype is developing in the US in particular. We hope to profit from that as well. When a local TV chef started working with kohlrabi, demand for the product increased dramatically. By presenting them here explicitly, we are hoping supermarket and restaurant purchasers will do something with it!"

For more information:
Bejo Iberica
Calle del heridero, 15
28750 San Agustin de Guadalix
Tel: +34 91 658 70 72
[email protected]
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