In Belgium, Special Fruit is experiencing a first this week. They're getting Kenyan mangetout and sugar snaps via sea freight. "Our focus on sea freight fits perfectly within our sustainability policy. We want to reduce our future carbon footprint," says Lieve Michielsen.
"We've been getting these products via sea freight from other cultivation countries for a while. These include Guatemala and Egypt. But, for Kenya, it's a first. It's not easy either. The weather in the country of origin has to be ideal for importing these vegetables by sea. Fortunately, the first arrival was of excellent quality. Now we have a year-round sea freight supply."
"Sea freight's advantage is that the products' temperatures are better maintained during the voyage. There was also always a big price difference between sea and air freight. That means a more attractive price level. Though, recently, sea freight has also faced challenges with shortages and high rates," Lieve explains.
French green bean sales usually pick up well in the run-up to Christmas. However, mangetout and sugar snaps are characterized by very stable sales throughout the year, says Lieve. "There's enough supply, but each season is different. That's why the challenge is to select the best origins at the best moment. We import mangetouts from not only Kenya, Egypt, and Guatemala. We do so from Peru and Zimbabwe too."
"We sell most of these products in Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The products' versatility is their strength. They can be eaten raw or cooked and stir-fried," Lieve continues. "We offer them in customized packaging of various sizes, from bags to trays and cartons."
As Christmas approaches, different exotics are particularly popular, the importer notes. "For example, pitahaya, mango, and avocado are currently doing well. Figs also always do well at Christmas, as do dates and mini pineapples. The papaya market is also picking up. The closures have slowed down sales to the hospitality industry. But demand from supermarkets is unusually good," Lieve concludes.