At a winter vegetable specialist like A&P Sweep from Zevenbergen, you would expect things to be very busy in the month of December, but according to Pierre Sweep, the sales spike is shifting more and more towards the 'in-between season', roughly between March and September. "Retailers want to offer their product year-round. In the past years, we have invested a lot in cultivation and storage techniques, so we're able to offer high quality later on in the season as well."New packing and washing line
Celeriac is still the most important product within the company, but in recent years Sweep's activities have been a lot broader, for instance through taking over Jakova and cultivating and selling winter carrots and rutabaga. "But the tubers still make up 50-60% of our sales. The new packing lines are working like a charm, and we're now working on a new washing line," Pierre says. "Where most of Sweep's celeriac used to go to industry, nowadays the lion's share is finding its way to the fresh market, 1/3 of which goes to retail, and the remaining part to exporters."
The wholesaler is careful about expressing his expectation on the season. "Nothing changes as fast as the celeriac market. That much was clear last season, when it looked to turn out terribly, but at the end of the season a lot of demand came from France, which emptied all warehouses. At the moment its a waiting game, but it's clear that not a lot of 'disaster' befell Europe, with produce being available everywhere now. Our advantage is that we have a lot of relatively smaller sizes available this year. The first months won't be easy, but even so, sales volumes are reasonably on par with us for the moment. A lower price always gives a lot of export opportunities. Weather influences in the Netherlands are not that relevant for celeriac sales, because the biggest part is going away for export."
Sweep purchases celeriac from growers in a 75-kilometre radius, from Schouwen-Duiveland to the Land of Heusden and Altena and the Hoekse Waard. One exception is a German grower, who supplies large volumes because of demand from German retailers for German produce. "We have the best local growing areas, and logistically speaking we are perfectly located as well. Together with the growers, we try to adhere to sustainability, with leaf juice measurements and nitrogen reduction as examples. In addition, we have about 20 hectares of own cultivation, which we mainly use as one big 'variety test'. Now we are able to harvest about a quarter of our celeriac production with the potato harvester."
Although it's tempting, Pierre consciously chooses not to export, not to sit in the seat of his customers. "My point of view is that this company's strength is in cultivation and storage. By working well with exporters, I am convinced that more can be gained for both. We can fully focus on delivering a high-quality products. We have the facilities and cultivation in place for that, and work very hard on that each day with our staff of ten."
For more information:A&P Sweep
De Langeweg 9a
4762 RA Zevenbergen