Yesterday, Cepifruit and the Fruit Growers Action Group took to the streets in Belgium. They were protesting against the too-low prices supermarkets pay fruit growers for their products. The demonstrators formed a tractor column from the village of Glons to the Comeos office in Auderghem, near Brussels.
Comeos is a group that represents Belgian trade and services. "No one can live on these prices. With what the supermarkets pay us now, we can't even cover costs. That has to change," begins grower, and Fairebel representative, Xavier Laduron, who had joined the protest.
About 40 tractors arrived at Comeos in the late morning. "Profits must be fairly distributed. Supermarkets buy the fruit very cheaply from us and sell it expensively. Their profit margins should make it possible to compensate producers fairly without consumers having to pay more. Our goal isn't to make shoppers pay more; we want a bigger share of those profits." As the column arrived and lined up, organizers and fruit growers made speeches, clarifying their demands.
Xavier considers the protest a success. "The atmosphere was pleasant, and it was well attended, making it clear how important this issue is to growers," he says, emphasizing that this was a peaceful demonstration. "There was no hostility. All we wanted to do was engage in dialogue. It's high time to wake up because, else, there's no point in continuing. In a year or two, there might well be no more Dutch or Belgian-grown apples and pears."
"We want to have constructive talks with Comeos to jointly find solutions. If they have no time for us, then they won't get any apples either. Things simply cannot go on like this," Xavier explains. After the speeches, the column headed toward supermarkets to make them and their customers aware of the situation's urgency. "We want to involve consumers, too, to explain why we're doing what we're doing and why we're there. It has to be collaborative. That's why we like engaging with people to make them aware of the need."
"Pink Lady apples sell for €4 overseas. Why are Jonagolds considered inferior to Pink Lady? People often say, 'That's different. It's Pink Lady'. Yet, Jonagold is still the best-known, best-selling variety in Belgium. We get about €0.40 for a kilo of apples; then that kilo is sold for €2. To cover costs, we should get at least €1. The distribution must be fairer and quicker because otherwise, growers might be done soon, and with them Belgian top fruit," Xavier concludes.
The Belgian Farmers Union did research and found that the difference between what the public pays for fruit and what growers get 'is far too great', they say. "If we want to preserve our local fruit production, we mustn't give our fruit growers handouts but fair prices. They must get higher prices so they, too, can keep making a living. They work hard every day for the delicious, healthy, sustainable fruit they grow locally", the union states on its website, which lists the price difference.
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