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Lettuce great competitor for endive

To the surprise of many, the Dutch Nutrition Centre recently stated that endive may be eaten daily, negating earlier restrictions imposed on the abundant intake of nitrates. However, it seems unlikely that endive is going to make a big splash. Both popularity and acreage of the crop has been falling for years.

The endive market in Europe is under pressure. A SWOT analysis by Belgian LAVA, shows that the price of endive displays a downward trend and that its acreage is declining. According to the organization, some 450 hectares of endive is currently cultivated in Flanders and the southern Netherlands.

Competition from lettuce
"Lettuce is a great competitor," says Wim in 't Groen, endive specialist with seed breeder Rijk Zwaan. According to him there are three broad types of endive: the smooth-leafed kind, the frisée or curly endive, and Très Fine Maraicher (TFM), a very fine curly endive. The TFM seems little affected by competition from lettuce crops, mostly because the fine quality is said to be unparalleled. The other two, however, are increasingly marginalized by lettuce.

Grower Peter Van Osch confirms the competition from lettuce. He also points to changed eating habits. "People used to eat more endive stew in the past, but that has changed." His production company, Van Osch Vegetable Productions, is about 130 hectares. The production goes through marketing cooperative De Schakel. In order to offer them a complete package, the company also has endive in the range. “Endive now mostly serves as a modest component,” he says, “adding some dark green to the mixture.”

Still, growers say, there are some opportunities for endive. "It is a relatively inexpensive product that is easy to grow," says Wim in 't Groen. This year, Rijk Zwaan introduced the new breed Anconi RZ (RZ 11-602). The breed is productive and relatively resistant to disease. So it might be too soon to thrust aside yesterday’s favorite vegetable just yet!

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