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"Up to 30 percent fewer Belgian pears expected this coming season"

"Remaining pear stocks no reason for panic"

It seemed for a long time that this would be an exceptionally positive season for Belgian pears, and for the most part, it was. However, in recent weeks, there have been reports that due to expectations of high prices similar to last year, there are slightly more pears in stock than initially estimated. "No reason for panic," states Christophe Van Haelst of VHM Fruit Trade. "Generally, there is indeed a bit more inventory, but I don't think the reserves are so large that there will be problems if we proceed wisely."

"Our own stocks are actually just as we want them," continues the grower/trader from Beveren, in Flanders. "I even think we might fall short, but that's also anticipated. We normally anticipate that we'll need to buy a bit more towards the end so that we never end up with a surplus. In this regard, we always look at the market situation towards the end of the year. It's true that there's a bit more stock this year, but I feel that unnecessary panic is being spread, as we see that the fixed programs are running very smoothly."

"There is indeed some competition from other fruits and vegetables. For example, tomatoes from Spain are cheap at the moment, and Spanish cherries and stone fruit are increasingly entering the market, but generally, they are not cheaper than the pears. We know that consumption always decreases a bit from mid-May, but it's certainly not the case that it has completely stopped. On the contrary," Christophe explains.

Once and never again
He does see that prices have dropped somewhat, but this is, according to the trader, also unnecessary. "We shouldn't massively reduce prices because then we might sell more pears. I think it's important for the trade to keep the price stable, because if we drop by 10 to 20 percent, we really won't sell any more pears. It must be remembered that no new pears will be added until August 15. That's still a while, so if everyone acts wisely, everyone will get a good price in the last months."

"Indeed, too much was held onto last year's prices because we, as growers/traders, thought 'the sky was the limit'," continues Christophe. "We set the prices very high in the last months, and maybe too high, causing supermarkets to say: 'Once and never again'. They have anticipated this year by purchasing overseas pears. There are quite some volumes coming from there, but I think this won't hinder the Conference. It brings a nice variety of varieties, but the consumer remains loyal to the Conference. Retail might want to go completely overseas in terms of price this year, but I think the Conference will never disappear. Panic is really not necessary. Who knows, by the beginning of July, we might suddenly say: 'Where have all the pears gone?' It wouldn't be the first time, so until mid/end of June, we should definitely try to stay calm. After that, adjustments can still be made."

20 to 30 percent less volume
Looking to the coming season, the trader is a bit more worried. "The hail we had seems to be growing out reasonably well, but I expect that we'll still see a bit of it. However, one of our growers put it nicely: 'We're used to it by now'. Generally, it grows out for the most part, but we can say that they definitely won't be spotless. Moreover, I hear that due to the very strong shedding as a result of the hail, there will be 20 to 30 percent less volume in the upcoming harvest. It's still a long way off, but it seems we can quietly start to assume that."

For more information:
Christophe Van Haelst
Van Haelst Fruit
Kieldrechtsebaan 85
BE-9130 Verrebroek, Belgium
+32 (0)3 336 16 47
+32 (0)477 77 77 36
[email protected]

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