The production of organic greenhouse vegetables increases by 15-20% each year, and according to commercial director Gert Kögeler of Eosta, that's in line with the increase in the market. "But we aren't looking for switchers very actively. Sometimes conventional growers come to us when they want to try organic as a final straw, but usually that doesn't work out. On the other hand, last year we got a request from a modern vine tomato nursery - Meer Camp - with a solid plan to switch, and of course we won't say no to that. We invested a lot of time to writing a good sales plan, but also to lining up actual programmes with clients."
"Every year in September, we discuss the supply and demand we expect. In organics, the two should be matched very closely. One hectare of organic cucumbers is too much, it could cause a difficult market situation. The supply needs to be largely pre-programmed, otherwise you end up in a surplus market, and that's not good for anyone," Gert says. "For instance, in Spain, organic greenhouse cultivation is increasing significantly, but for each product, that happens rather impulsively. If a certain crop doesn't do well, next year they'll immediately grow less of it, or more in case of a good market. In that respect, Dutch organic cultivation is a lot more constant."
Many conventional growers are in financial trouble. Asked if growers of organic greenhouse vegetables are able to make enough money, Gert replies: "That depends on the grower. Some growers do well, others less so. You can't make a carbon copy of the conventional cultivation situation and apply it to organics. Compared to conventional, organic production remains relatively low. While in conventional cultivation varieties continue to be introduced that supply a higher production, in organic cultivation that's not always possible."
Niche within a niche
"Vine tomatoes are the biggest product in the Dutch market for organic greenhouse vegetables, and that season proceeds with difficulty due to higher supply and more division in the market. This year, the market for conventional vine tomatoes isn't good either, and that drags down the organic market with it. The organic cucumber market has been fair to good, and the bell pepper market could even be called good," Gert summarizes. "The main markets for organic greenhouse vegetables are Germany, Scandinavia and the domestic market. A development we're facing, is that former sales countries are becoming more self-sufficient, like in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, the smaller products, or the niche within a niche, are on the rise, and we've been scoring with that rather well lately."
Gert also says it's notable how more and more supermarkets are offering organic products without packaging. "It makes for a more natural look and feel, and we're seeing a great revenue increase because of this. Also, at the moment organic fruit is really catching up in Dutch supermarkets. The full organic range is growing, but sales of organic fruit are growing fastest at the moment."
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