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"Jacky Boussier: "Everyone is selling dirt cheap everywhere"

Tough battle on top fruit market

A tough battle is being fought at the moment in the top fruit market. Exporters who were normally strongly focused on Russia, are now on markets where other traders were already active. "They are literally in our waters, often selling for less", says Jackie Boussier of exporter Boussier. "This causes the price to be under huge pressure. A sad fact, seeing how we had a good harvest this year, with good quality and sizes."

Price pressure
He goes on: "Fortunately for us, we are not dependent on Russia, and we've had regular buyers for years in countries like Germany, Scandinavia and England. But competitors are going there as well now. Due to the whole Russia situation, everyone is now offering their products at rock-bottom prices everywhere. We can't fully keep up with that. We can continue to supply for the most part, but the price pressure is a big problem. It's possible that we'll break even this year, but a profit is unlikely."

Industrial improving

Price-wise, it's stable for a while right now. "Selling apples is even harder, because of the extra competition from Poland. For pears, the cost prices for a kilo unsorted is around 35 cents. Add to that the sorting costs, and you'll quickly reach a cost price of 40/42 cents for the grower. For the best pears, they only get paid 40 to 45 cents, so the median price is around 30/32 cents. So they're always operating at a loss." Jackie indicates that 40 to 45 cents is still being paid for the good apples, but generally prices are lower. "The only advantage in the market now is that industrial fruit is getting more expensive. At first, factories continued working hard at a low price, but now they're facing a shortage in volume. For the moment, everything is in the cells. If industrial apples are needed now, quite a bit of money has to be paid for them."

Trading not pleasant
Some growers have left their harvest on the trees, but there is still a lot in the cells. "Many decided to take that chance, filling up the cells in hopes of something profitable coming out of it." According to Boussier, trading is not pleasant at the moment. "It's difficult to say what will happen. Of course it's not just Russia, Poland is bothering us as well. They have tonnes of apples, and take it to various markets cheaply. We are still exporting well to Germany, although that is changing. Normally we exported 50% fruit and 50% vegetables to that country. Now it's only 25% fruit and 75% vegetables." He indicates that more and more pears are being exported to a number of former Soviet republics, however. "This is a trend that has been going for a number of seasons now, but we'll have to wait and see how that will remain possible in the current context."

New markets?
"Trading with new markets is a must. Especially with the current closure of Russia", Boussier thinks. "The short-term opportunities for sales of large volumes in other markets are limited. Thanks to its good storability, the Conference is the ideal export product for faraway markets. But it won't be easy. In the Middle East, for instance, our Conference pear has the 'disadvantage' of being rough-skinned. They see that as a class 2. It will take a while for a market to get used to a new product like that. In addition, at the moment permission is required for entry to certain markets, but in the end it will be months before you can actually get started. They often have strict demands as well. The Chinese, for instance, personally come to pick the orchards from which they want their produce. That complicates things even further. There's no freedom any more", he concludes.

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