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We did not have the need for getting into top fruit

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-01-03  Views: 18
Core Tip: Sales of nearly 223 million euro, a good year for strawberries, and a fair greenhouse vegetable season: that is 2016 for Coöperatie Hoogstraten in a nutshell.
Sales of nearly 223 million euro, a good year for strawberries, and a fair greenhouse vegetable season: that is 2016 for Coöperatie Hoogstraten in a nutshell. Gaston Opdekamp, manager of Coöperatie Hoogstraten, gives 2016 a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. The most important products for the cooperative are still strawberries, tomatoes and bell peppers.

“We had a good strawberry year”
Opdekamp says: “I do not think we have reason to complain, sales were a few percentages higher than in 2015. The beginning was a bit mediocre. It stayed dark for a longer period, and productions trailed, especially in greenhouse vegetables. The summer was good, we did not have longer-lasting crises or slumps for any product. The autumn was especially good for strawberries, and it still is. For greenhouse vegetables, October and November were only moderate, pricing for tomatoes was regular. The bell pepper season ended less well than in 2015. Although 2015 was an exceptional year for bell peppers, with good prices right up to the end. Spain was present a bit earlier in 2016 with a good product, qualitatively speaking. We do not want to blow our own trumpet, but for most products, prices were average to fair. We had a good strawberry year, that much can be said.”

Increase in tomatoes and strawberries

Opdekamp sees an increase for various products in 2017. “The tomato area will grow, and we will also have more strawberries. A slight increase for bell peppers is also visible, but that is almost nothing compared to the increase in the Netherlands.” Whether the Dutch area expansion will be a threat, is still uncertain. “Only time will tell. For 15 years already, people have been saying that strawberries will have a slump, because of the systematic expansion. That could possibly happen, but we do not yet know when.”

Price differences
The price differences between Belgian and Dutch greenhouse vegetables are well-known. “We definitely look around, listen to what is happening and position ourselves above the market as regards pricing.” Does this also attract Dutch cultivators? “We are open to anyone who applies, but recently we have not had many applications. For greenhouse vegetables, cultivators can contact us directly, for strawberries, they have to go through CLTV Zundert. Perhaps we do not have enough campaigns due to our prices, but the Netherlands also does not announce univocal prices. We are doing our thing, and we want to do that based on our own strength.” He does not know whether more Dutch cultivators will apply in future. “In the Netherlands, more and more cultivator’s associations are turning their backs on GGO, so that might have consequences. I do not think there will be a rush to join, I think those days are over. The turbulent times are behind us. The Netherlands also had a calm year, perhaps due to a fair season as well.”

Top fruit
Opdekamp sensibly looks at the ‘auction situation’ in Belgium. “There are only a few large cooperatives left in Belgium, so we cannot consolidate much anymore.” Was Hoogstraten not interested in Veiling Haspengouw? “In 2009 we were given the chance to take over an entire top fruit auction, Profuco. We did not do that. We believe that every man should stick to his trade. We have little to no affinity with top fruit in this region, we do not have the infrastructure or the people, we do not even have ULO storage. Why would we throw ourselves into a top fruit project? No, others are strong in top fruit. I honestly wish those parties all the best. We did not have the need for getting into top fruit. We would sooner look at an expansion in the soft fruit sector; we have an affinity with that. We have recently seen cultivators in our region switching to or starting new projects in blueberries, raspberries and cherries. We think we could offer expertise in these products to our cultivators. Combined with our strawberries, that is where our chances are.”

“For strawberries, we have been working with CLTV Zundert for 20 years already. We also regularly work with Veiling BelOrta, and we have been doing so for nearly 40 years already. More recently, we have cooperated with Veiling Zaltbommel for bell pepper and raspberry. We try to cooperate whenever we can. For example, bell pepper actions in France, we have been doing these for three consecutive years already with BelOrta and LAVA. But in other fields we are competitors, that’s just the case. We are masters in selling strawberries at auction every day, and the strawberries of BelOrta, REO and BFV are sold at the same auction, next to ours. On the other hand, our vegetables are being sold at the vegetable auction of BelOrta. You need to strengthen each other if possible, but you are competitors if needed.”

In 2017, Opdekamp wants to make the organisation stronger. “We are facing various challenges, such as an IT and communications (both internal and external) upgrade, but we also want to enter the market even further. There will always be areas of learning and need for improvements. It is also important to stay up to date as regards automation. You become outdated if you stop paying attention for even just a minute.” An increase as regards company activities is not a goal for Hoogstraten. “Of course, sales is the basis of all activities. We mostly want to do the things we do, and we want to do them well.”

keywords: strawberries
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