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Benoit Demedts, Demedts - De Mey:

"Starting next week, we expect to be able to supply the first volumes"

Both traders and consumers seem to be eagerly awaiting the arrival of larger volumes of Belgian strawberries, but according to Benoit Demedts of Demedts - De Mey nursery, their patience is about to be rewarded. "We started harvesting about three weeks ago, but from next week, I expect to also start supplying the first volumes to the trade," says the grower from Gits in Flanders.

"The first strawberries to enter production were the Rendez-Vous, and since last week, we have also started with the Sonsation," Benoit continues. "They are in the glass greenhouses, where everything is a bit further along. Outside, it's a different story. There, we really need the sun to shine properly. Yet, we see the volumes doubling week by week. Everything is getting underway. Last winter, we sourced strawberries from a fellow grower with lit strawberries, but for the past few weeks, we have been able to fully supply ourselves again. And if the growth continues, next week we will also start supplying the first volumes to Bouvry in Bruges, in addition to our own direct sales."

Attractive prices
And not a moment too soon, he states. "The demand is definitely there. We notice that customers have been asking about the strawberries in the store and the vending machine for a while. Moreover, the auction prices are at a high level, which is, of course, good for us. We were lucky to have nice weather over the weekends, and with Easter, they always sell well. The beginning of this week was a bit colder, but it remains to be seen how the week will unfold. Yesterday, prices rose at the REO Auction, but that might also be due to the fact that everyone was sold out last weekend. Then, of course, purchases have to be made again. It remains to be seen how things will go in the coming days/weeks."

"Under glass, everyone has already started in full swing, but it remains to be seen whether this will continue or if it will slow down somewhat due to the colder weather now," the grower explains. "We'll see. However, it might not be so bad if it stays a bit cooler outside. Then, the strawberries under plastic and glass greenhouses are spread out a bit and don't all hit the market at the same time. That would put a lot of pressure on the prices, but for now, it seems to be moving in the right direction. We hope to maintain these prices for Mother's Day. Then we've had a good start, and from May, which is the strawberry month, sales should really take off."

Apart from the auction
Benoit indicates that traders can't wait for the market to burst into life. "They have been asking for it for a while, but since last year, we started later due to the gas prices. We're doing that again this year and will wait to see the figures before we look at possible plans for next year. However, we also hear from some colleagues working with the perpetual bearer Karima that this is a variety that can be planted early and also produces a significant yield early on. That might be something to consider, but for now, we're happy with the quality we can deliver."

"We have also built up that reputation. Traders need a lot in the spring and summer. They know they will get quality products from us. It's also the reason we pulled out of the auction. We want to stand out and not be just one of many suppliers. People should know that they can get consistent quality from us. We've been doing this for about eight years now, and it seems to work. Moreover, it's nice that you can also communicate honestly with your buyer if the quality is less in the autumn, for example. That direct communication and honesty are important to us."

Early cherries and apricots
All in all, Benoit looks forward to a beautiful summer. "The most beautiful time of the year. There's hardly any competition on the market anymore. You still have the Spanish ones, but we notice more and more people opting for Belgian strawberries. Even bakers who sometimes went for Spanish strawberries in the winter are now leaving them behind. They cost more, but apparently, everyone is willing to pay the price. So now, we're just waiting for the larger volumes, which will peak with us from the beginning of May. That's when I always plan my spring peak because then you also have Mother's Day, and there's a huge demand for strawberries from us, but also from the trade."

In addition to strawberries, the grower is also interested in how his apricots and cherries will perform. "The apricots and cherries have set very nicely. The flowering is completely done, and they are growing very quickly. For the cherries, we expect to start on May 20. Last year, we had the first, so we naturally want to achieve that again. It's always important to combine earliness with optimal quality, but I think we have been able to guarantee that again this year. Moreover, this is our first year with a full apricot harvest. Here, too, I expect to definitely get my volumes on the tree. It's still a bit of a wait, but I foresee a few problems. The demand is already there, so it's just up to us to get it to the customers in the best way possible."

For more information:
Benoit Demedts
Demedts - De Mey
Middenstraat 97z
8830 Gits, Belgium
Tel.: +32 479 69 08 67
Email: [email protected]

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