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Marcel and Frank Valckenier:

"Spanish strawberries improving annually"

Father Marcel and son Frank Valckenier have been working in the wholesale market in Brussels for years now. The product range mostly consists of fruit, including top fruit and soft fruit. "We follow the Belgian seasons, but as soon as that's over, or the products become too expensive, we switch to other countries of origin," Marcel says. "As of a few weeks ago, we are offering Spanish strawberries again."

Good Spanish strawberries

Twenty years ago, Valckenier also sold French strawberries. "Back then, there were periods when there were too few Belgian strawberries, so we also sold those in-between. Now you don't see any French strawberries on the market here, actually. Belgium continues for longer, after which the switch is made to Morocco or Spain." He notes that the quality of Spanish strawberries improves each year. "If you imported these a number of years ago, you almost had to sell them the same day, they deteriorated that quickly. Now they look good on arrival, and they remain fresh a lot longer. In Spain, they're doing a lot with new varieties, and you see everything improve. Of course they have to, the customer is asking for it. The best ones come from Frutas Esther, they look lovely and taste great as well."

Marcel (left) and Frank with the Frutas Esther strawberries

Frank notes that they've been offering these strawberries for three weeks now. "The season started a bit earlier than other years, but the volumes are still small. You really have to make sure you reserve them beforehand, otherwise you've got nothing." At the moment, mainly bakers and restaurants are buying strawberries. "The price of these strawberries is currently 3.90 per half a kilo," he continues. "A few weeks ago, that was still one Euro less. It's possible that this will go up further with Christmas approaching. To compare: the Belgian ones are at 5.75 now."

Then and now
Marcel and Frank expect that the market trade will definitely continue to exist. "Although it's different than it used to be. People actually came to the market, the place was absolutely packed. A lot more trading was being done, and you really had to distinguish yourself from the competitor by giving customers a good price. They would ask for the price at several traders, and if you were lucky, they returned to you. Now you don't see a lot of customers in person any more. They call, fax or mail their order, and don't come to look now. Perhaps there's more faith in the products now. We still enjoy our work, but it's a pity that people know less about what we're doing here on the market, and what fresh produce trade entails. The knowledge is gone. That's why companies are having a harder time recruiting staff."

For more information:
Valckenier BVBA
Frank Valckenier
Kerkhofstraat 10
1760. Roosdaal-Pamel
Tel: +475-682125
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