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"Alexander Verduyn: "Quality in our own hands"

Verduyn exporting more and more from own cultivation company Agricolas

The Verduyn family enterprise has made several investments over the past years. "One of our new businesses is the vertical integration in our company", Alexander Verduyn says. "About three years ago, we started our own cultivation company, named Agricolas. It was in the testing phase for a while, but at the moment several products are cultivated on an acreage of 300 hectares, to commercialize through NV Verduyn." Nicolas Verduyn, Alexander's brother, has the day-to-day management of that.

Expansion of range
He continues: "We were already growing a small part of the carrots ourselves, but the biggest volume of our products was supplied by various growers under the supervision of Verduyn when it comes to cultivation. We wanted to have the quality in our own hands, and with Agricolas we are able to cultivate products even more to the specific demands of the customer, also when it comes to size and weight. The most important product is carrots, followed by white and red cabbage, leek, celeriac and broccoli. Following customer demand, we have decided to expand our range. At Agricolas, the products are also packaged specifically for customers. One of the latest packages is sealing broccoli: a second skin."

Important buyers for Verduyn are Belgium, France and England. "We export our products to 18 different countries, both for the fresh market and for processing. We also have branches in France and Spain. We ship around 150,000 tonnes of produce annually." Alexander's parents are still active in the company, and his brother Nicolas and sister Valerie are now also officially part of the management, and will take charge in the future. "We will remain a family enterprise 100%."

Alexander emphasizes that quality is of paramount importance for them. "We ensure that the bottom product of the pallet is the same as the top. For each customer, we discuss what they need, and we grow that. We mainly work with supermarkets, so we talk about what happens during a shortage or surplus in production. For the most part, it's written down in contracts, but there is also a part free trade. We consciously don't focus on free trade that much. Many companies see it as an opportunity: when there is a shortage somewhere, they will fill it up. We see that as dangerous. Just look at Russia: if you are only looking to fill 'gaps' in the market, and something disappears, you are nowhere as a company. It is currently very difficult for a lot of growers, and money urgently has to be made quickly."

Over the coming years, the Agricolas acreage is expected to increase. "It all depends on what our customers are asking, and what products they want to have. I expect all products to get more volumes, step by step. We will not compromise on quality. By the way, quality is not a demand nowadays, it's standard. You're mainly negotiating on volumes and prices now."

Difficult market

The carrot market is difficult at the moment. "There are a lot of volumes this year, and the prices are suffering. Then there's also the mouse damage. That is a real problem in Belgium this year. That's mainly due to relatively high temperatures last year. We hope there will be some good frost again this winter. In that case the market will recover. Due to the Russian boycott, competition has increased enormously. Companies that normally focused on Russia, are now also going to 'our' customers. We stay our course of supplying proper quality at a correct price!"

For more information:
NV Verduyn
Galgestraat 9
B-8610 Kortemark - Belgiƫ
T +32 (0)51 57 00 56
F +32 (0)51 56 65 26
[email protected]
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