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John Gijbels, Euro Gijbels, Belgium:

"We're expecting a slight overlap with cauliflower this year"

Euro Gijbels always starts the Spanish season a little later. This Belgian company has a farm and partner growers in that country. These are located further north in the municipality of Mont-Roig del Camp. That's in the Catalan province of Tarragona. "That means we begin after, for example, Valencia or Murcia," says John Gijbels, who was recently in Spain for the start of the new season. "The advantage is that we can extend the season. That's with our products such as citrus, cabbage, leafy greens, and herbs."

Up until recently, John was busy with citrus. "We're finished with the early varieties of clementines, Oronules. We got the first Clemenules in week 45 at our sorting facility in Spain. That's where our calibration machine is located. There were some problems with the early varieties' quality this year. But we're more to the north and start later. So, we had fewer issues. However, the fruits were a bit on the small side. The Clemenules that followed were a little larger."

Euro Gijbels cultivates other products for the Northwestern European market too. These include leafy vegetables, cabbages, and herbs like flat and curly leaf parsley, all from open fields. "This year's weather is slightly different in Spain. So, we were able to start earlier with cauliflower. But that led to an overlap. There was still enough of this product for the Belgian market. That's quite a contrast with last year. Then we started later and ended up in a rather empty market."

The coronavirus is affecting Euro Gijbels too. "It's mainly inconveniencing our work. We have to use more vehicles to get the pickers to the field. The sorting station staff has to be further apart. And, of course, we have to follow protocols. It's difficult, but we can't complain. We're in an industry that provides people with their daily portion of fruit and vegetables. However, our clients are having a harder time making sales to the hospitality sector. While those supplying the retail sector have seen their sales increase," explains John.

Mont-roig del Camp

Euro Gijbels has been active in Spain for many years. It all started when John's parents decided to take over a cooperative and sell fruit and vegetables in Belgium. The family has been active in this Belgian sector since 1948. "Although my family has been involved in this sector for many years, I'm still new at it," says John.

"The Spanish climate has changed a lot in recent years. We see this not only in citrus fruit farming which is increasingly possible further north. But also in our water management. Water is becoming increasingly scarce in the Tarragona area. In the past, a grower only had to dig a shallow hole to collect sufficient rainwater. Now, we already have to drill 200m down before we reach groundwater. That's obviously changing in the longer term."

"Morocco is catching up. But there's still a clear distinction in the markets for Spanish and Moroccan products. The market focus differs for each," John concludes.

For more information:
John Gijbels
Euro Gijbels
Acaciastraat 21
2440 Geel – België
Cami de les Arenes s/n
43300 Mont-roig del Camp
Tarragona - España      

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