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Gaston Opdekamp, Coöperatie Hoogstraten:

“Greenhouse strawberry season was a bit atypical this year”

Traditionally, the greenhouse strawberry season ends mid-June, and it’s therefore time to take stock. Production of greenhouse strawberries started relatively late due to a cold and dark spring, but production then gained momentum because of high temperatures in May. Gaston Opdekamp of Coöperatie Hoogstraten: “The course of the season was quite jerky.”


Prices were good due to high demand and a relatively limited supply around Easter, but this was followed by a severe slump. Gaston: “Between week 15 and week 17, supply tripled. Week 21, 22 and 23 were weak weeks regarding pricing. In those weeks, fair volumes of up to 2,000 tonnes per week were shipped, but prices were too low. When you only get one euro per pound as grower of greenhouse strawberries, that’s naturally not good.”

Extreme heat
Yet this isn’t unusual according to Gaston: “High prices are often followed by a slump. Growers who have been on the market the entire season have had a fairly good season, I think. If you’re on the market long enough, you’ll experience both the highest and lowest prices.”

The bad prices were the consequence of various varieties ripening at the same time due to extreme heat in May. Gaston: “We also saw more supply from neighbouring countries such as Germany than we would normally expect. That threw a bit of a spanner in the works.”

Spanish strawberries
The growers weren’t affected by supply from Spain, according to Gaston. “In recent years, Belgian and Dutch growers have been on the market year-round more. We are seeing Spanish strawberries, but consumers don’t treat them the same as Belgian or Dutch product. It’s a completely different product for consumers. It’s not a problem to place Spanish strawberries for 1.50 euro next to Belgian strawberries for 3 euro in supermarkets. Consumers are willing to spend more for the quality difference.”

Temporary supply slump
Due to high temperatures, outdoor productions entered the market earlier as well. Gaston: “Growers think in plantings. Normally, there are six to eight weeks between planting and harvest. Warm weather means the harvest could occur much sooner, after even just four to five weeks. Various productions therefore happened earlier. As a result, it’s now expected fewer strawberries will be on the market in coming weeks. Fortunately, temperatures appear to even out a bit more now, so that production will normalise a bit as well.”

Organic growth of area
Early in October greenhouse strawberries will start again. Gaston expects a similar area compared to the previous production period in Belgium, but he thinks the Netherlands will have a larger area. “The Belgian area grows more organically than in the Netherlands. We’re always investing considerably in the production of strawberries, but not on such a large scale as in the Netherlands.”

For more information:
Coöperatie Hoogstraten
www.hoogstraten.eu


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