"I wouldn't know which fruit to call cheap currently," says Henk Vlaeminck of the Belgian importer Van Dijk Foods. He sees imported fruit prices rising while consumers are more reluctant to pay a lot for groceries. "Spanish cherries, stone fruit, kiwis or oranges. Fruit is becoming a luxury item. Combined that with inflation, and it's why this year's sales volumes are far lower than previous years."
For many products, that is because of limited supply, says Henk. "There are, for example, very few Spanish cherries coming in at the moment. Climate issues mean there are significantly limited volumes to export. There's demand, but the market's simply empty. There's especially not good quality. The same goes for the supply from France. You now pay about €7.50/kg for the smaller sizes and over €11 for the larger ones. That's very expensive."
"The Spanish supermarkets are also doing well. There's high demand for cherries there, too, so little remains to be exported. I don't expect much change any time soon, either. The volumes will be done in roughly four weeks, and the season will end for us. Dutch and Belgian supply will then provide market relief, but that's useless to us. As soon as the local supply hits the market, it means the end of the import season," Henk explains.
He describes a similar situation with Spanish stone fruit. "The weather in Spain affected these too. This week went a little better, but getting quality stone fruit is still hard. There are still significant water problems. It rained last week, of course, but torrential rain doesn't solve the water issue. The water runs off very quickly, which doesn't help. It must have time to soak into the ground."
High prices deter people
These fruit prices, therefore, remain high for the time of year, too. "For peaches and nectarines, we're talking wholesale prices of €3.50/4 per kilo. Then it still has to go to stores, which add their profit margin. You then quickly reach about €10 for a few pieces of fruit. That's quite pricey, isn't it? That quickly becomes a consumer barrier. Don't get me wrong, things are good for the time of year, but that's because prices are higher. There's far less volume than last year, something that probably won't change in the next few weeks," Henk concludes.