By 1987 Ad van der Staay had already left the family business to grow field vegetable crops in Vilanov d' Escornalbou, which lies in the state of of Tarragona in Northern Spain. At the moment Savasun S.A. - which is a part of the Staay Food Group - is growing their crops on 1,200 hectares. They directly sell their products to the Spanish and French markets, and they also ship directly to Belgium, but the bulk of the volume is sold via the Staay team in Barendrecht. "Harvest in the morning and process and cool in the afternoon so that the trucks with pre-cooled products can leave the next morning," says Ad.

Different kinds of lettuce

In Tarragona Savasun grows cauliflower, spinach, (curl) Endive, Lollo Rosso, Lollo bionda, oak leaf lettuce (green and red), Chinese cabbage, fennel, kale, celery (for the cutting room), parsley (curly and leaf), beetroot, roman lettuce, green cauliflower, onions, winter and spring leek, celery (white and green), broad beans, peas, potatoes and cabbage. During the summer months personnel are hired for the cultivation of the apples and pears. They grow Gala, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples on 68 hectares of land. Right now the Spanish pears are being harvested. "We combine Dutch craftsmanship with the sunny Spanish climate," says Ad.

Ad van der Staay

Good outlook
Ad no longer frequently visits the Netherlands. He is busy enough in Spain, where focuses 100% on his crops. He also draws up the contracts for his Spanish and French clients. "In terms of cultivation, our prospects look good. Up to this point everything has gone quite well. We did not have any bad weather. There was no hail, and it looks like the production will start on time," says Ad. "There is room for the Spanish vegetable field crops, but a lot will depend on how the winter goes in Northern Europe. It will make quite a difference if it freezes over at the end of November and the fields come out clean in December. Although this does not always lead to higher prices for the Spanish product."


"Real shortages, like you used to have, don't happen anymore. Although it is of course always a challenge to bring constant volume to the market. Cauliflower is one of those products where one week you do not know how to fill the low volume and the next week the market is glutted with it," says Ad. "For us the pressure usually starts in the second week of November in Tarragona, from then on we will be very busy for a few months, and after that it begins to slow down in March. By the end of May/beginning of June we're back in production mode. For us the area for each crop looks about the same as in previous years, although every year it is one big puzzle trying to figure out the crop rotation."

Green onions

Russian boycott
A few years ago the growing area in Savasun in Vilanova d'Escornalbou was still 1,500 hectares, but in the last few years the company was able to purchase some land, including a speed train and a new highway. With the current acreage Ad hopes to see some advancements in the coming years. "Vegetable prices are not something to write home about, but we do have this land to our disposal. There is competition from other countries but that has been in progress for years. This year a lot will depend on how the Russian boycott plays out. Import products from outside Europe are still flowing into Russia, but we are missing the sales of our European products to Russia. In the winter hefty volumes of iceberg lettuce, broccoli and greenhouse vegetables were going to Russia. Personally, I expect that export from Turkey will also play a role."

"At the beginning we were able to distinguish ourselves with our Dutch way of growing. Now it is not only us. Every year there are more and more challenges. For example, there is always around three weeks in December when it is difficult to fill the demand for broccoli. We have had years in which the price of a box of broccoli was going for 20/25 Euro because there was not enough product. This year we planted more broccoli. I expect that there is about the same amount of iceberg lettuce planted as last year, and less spinach and leeks planted," says Ad. He gets most of his harvesting employees from Morocco. "The Spanish are not jumping to work in agriculture, but Moroccans are standing in line. "The amount of workers is not the problem, but the amount of good workers is becoming less and less."


For more information:
Ad van der Staay
Savasun S.A.
Finca Mas Damia S/N
43311 Vilanova D├ęscornalbou
T +34 9 77 83 74 32
F +34 9 77 83 70 94