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Citrus on demand or fresh from the trees?

The coming season is looking good for citrus from Spain, according to Willem Dijk, Sr. In addition to his expectations for the approaching Spanish season, he also talks about the labels the company supplies: Elefant and Filosofo. He has had a long relationship with both labels, but the procedures of the Spanish companies vary.

“I hear a lot of good reports,” says Dijk Sr about the new season. “Some companies offered Navelinas earlier, but Elefant waited until the end of October, when the season truly erupted. We had a good summer. It is a bit rainier now, but that is good for the citrus. If we do not get any hail, we will have had a great year.” For now, the cool nights, necessary for ripening the fruit properly, have been lacking. “During the day, it is about 25 degrees Celsius, and it does not really cool off during nights yet. But the year is still long,” Dijk Sr says, optimistically. 

Going to Spain personally
“We import citrus under two labels: Elefant and Filosofo. We also package the label Werkelijk Delicaat (Truly Delicate) under Filosofo,” Dijk Sr continues. Previously, the company also imported under the Genesis label, but that trade has halted. Dijk’s preference is for the earlier-mentioned brands. Elefant is a brand name of Exportaciones Aguado, a Spanish family company located in Picassent. The company is strong in oranges and tangerines. “Additionally, they also supply some lemons on a smaller scale.”

The first time Dijk Sr met this exporter was about ten years ago. The market was still practically empty back then, and Dijk Sr was frantically searching for oranges to keep his supply up. “It was around Christmas, and we were completely out of citrus. We had already rung up several transporters, but no one could help us. So we drove a lorry to Spain ourselves, and we eventually ended up with Elefant.”

Citrus on demand
Back then, the company was small and located in an old building in Castillon. A few years ago, the company moved to a completely new building. Exportaciones Aguado packages the citrus for French, English and Dutch importers. Willem Dijk is the exclusive party for this type of citrus on the Dutch market. Besides Elefant oranges, Willem Dijk has been a distributor of Filosofo tangerines for 13 years already. That label belongs to Aranda, located in the Safor region. “We are now up to our ears in clementines. The prospects for tangerines are also very good. It is going to be an incredibly good year.”

The two companies are also examples of different methods of working. “At Filosofo, inspectors go to the orchards, and they decide when picking starts,” Dijk Sr continues. When the fruit has been picked, it is sorted by size at the packing station. The citrus is then stored. “Oranges and tangerines can be take from the cells and packaged on demand.” That method has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that importers never miss out, product is always available. The disadvantage is that the citrus is sometimes in storage for a few days.

Changing packaging
Elefant has a different approach. “They select the fruit throughout the region, and have it picked at the best times. You always have good fruit that way. They truly go for flavour and quality.” During that selection process, the weather conditions and the hours of sunshine the fruit had are taken into account. “All the fruit is immediately sorted and packaged by size. Because of that, you always have fresh trade,” says Dijk. The disadvantage is that, essentially, it is possible for importers to miss out.

Much has changed for citrus companies since the advance of supermarkets throughout Europe, especially in the field of packaging. The traditional wooden crate containing 15 kilograms of oranges is clearly waning. “That is because there are fewer specialist shops. Supermarkets want the citrus packaged in nets, therefore many investments have been made in packing machines.” Besides, costs for manually packing the crates were high. “Packing the crates was labour-intensive, which is expensive. A machine spitting oranges into a net is much cheaper,” says Dijk.

Willem Dijk markets citrus throughout the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland. Thanks to differing preferences on the various markets, Dijk can work with all sizes. “Germany prefers larger sizes, Ireland prefers smaller sizes, and the Netherlands is somewhere in the middle. They balance each other out.” The German market is an important destination. From Enschede, Germany is right around the corner. “We started on that market in 2006, and it is going well. We have grown significantly in recent years.” 

For more information:
Willem Dijk AGF
Willem Dijk sr.