Geobas, an importer in the Netherlands, got the new persimmon crop from Azerbaijan in December. However, the Ukrainian conflict caused some issues. "Our normal route goes through Russia and Belarus and then across the border into Poland. Of course, that road was impassable, so we had to use an alternative route through Turkey. That meant the fruit arrived here six weeks later than planned, but its quality's better than ever," says Roger Knoors.
The importer specializes in dried and semi-dried persimmons. "We've not yet written off the fresh persimmons, but for now, we cannot compete with the Spanish Rojo Brillante variety. Many supermarkets carry these. Spanish growers receive grants, and because of that, we cannot yet compete price-wise. The supermarkets are currently paying plenty of attention to prices, considering every cent more."
The (semi)dried variety thus remains the company's main focus, which they market in various forms. "This year, we changed our drying process at the factory in northern Azerbaijan. We let the fruit hang on the trees a little longer, so they're riper during drying. This gives an even softer taste and more intense color. We're delighted with that and are also getting good feedback," Roger explains.
Geobas sells primarily to market vendors, wholesalers, and packers throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. "We've recently also established a presence in Luxembourg and are in talks with French and Italian parties."
The Azerbaijani persimmon season runs from mid-September to early February. "Halfway through, the first harvest's dried for the first time and comes here. In February, the second harvest is dried, which we expect by mid-March. We can, therefore, supply persimmons year-round. Unfortunately, the delay means the first harvest didn't arrive until just before the December holidays. That's a shame," Roger continues.
"Demand always peaks in the winter. In the summer, there's a lot of competition from other fruits, but in the winter, people like our persimmons. So we also have a variant in which half the dried persimmon slices are drenched in organic Peruvian Valrhona dark chocolate from Master Chocolatier Geert-Jan Heesterbeek. This item is available year-round but is very popular during the festive season."
The trader adds that consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with persimmons. "It's gaining more and more ground. It's long been an unknown fruit to many," Knoors admits, "but we see it's more of it's being bought. For example, we've tested our dried variety as a healthy snack at schools, which the kids loved."
"They seemed to prefer these over unhealthy snacks during breaks. More people are eating persimmons, and our variant is a good addition. Our partners and we can keep building and growing the product. That will take time, but I'm sure we can give this beautiful fruit permanent value on shelves," Roger concludes.
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