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Belgian grower Peter Bartels:

"Growing demand for sweet pointy pepper"

He was involved with blocky peppers for years, but after a few difficult seasons Belgian grower Peter Bartels opted to start growing a speciality. "2009 was an especially hard blow, so I decided to look for something different. The conclusion after five years of sweet pointed is that it has been a pleasant success for me," says the grower, satisfied.

Guaranteed sales

The product is sold by BelOrta. "The great thing about pointed pepper is that part of it is guaranteed sales. We still notice the demand for sweet pointed peppers growing, so that is positive. There is also a downside: when there is a kilo or a box too much, it becomes difficult. Today (Sept 2) the yellows were leaving for barely a euro per kilo. This isn't really a price you can grow for, it has to be around two euros, so the price has to be a little higher." He say the sales are organised in a fine mix. "We have the security of a number of yearly contracts that are subdivided into the four growers. Besides this some are sold on the clock. Of course there are peak weeks sometimes. These often cause some nervousness and the price is very under pressure."

Not an awful lot of production

There are four pointed pepper growers in Belgium. "We have an open system. Every year we meet with these growers at the auctions and discuss what we will be growing this year. The idea is to grow steadily and carefully. In total there is around 3.5 hectares in Belgium. This isn't an awful lot, but enough for now. Yet I do see Dutch products at Belgian retailers. The reason could be that we are slightly too small in Belgium to continually guarantee supply. The Dutch area of sweet points isn't that big, I estimate around 30 to 35 hectares."

Almost all year round

Bartels has been growing sweet pointed pepper of the Sweet Palermo variety on an area of 8,000 square metres since 2010. Besides red point he also has 1500 square metres of yellow and 200 orange. He grows the red almost all year round. "Palmero is a slow colourer so it's 12 weeks from blossom to product. The second half of November tends to be the end of the cultivations. Then we clear out and plant again in January. We drop out right when Spain is on the market. It works out well."

Yellow point
The area of yellow is still small. "We are constantly looking for the perfect variety. At the moment we have the Jersey variety. It is very good quality and has a good flavour. One downside is, however, that the plant isn't fixed, so some plants drop out at the start of the cultivation. Another is that it doesn't really have a fixed size. The start of the matter is quite coarse and at the end quite fine, which gives a bit of a yoyo effect in the weight. Sometimes you have points that are too fat and sometimes too thin. We are looking for something more stable, but it's not easy to find. Seed houses aren't really actively working on it, because there aren't huge areas of it."

Blocky pepper
He is glad he switched to pointed. "Block pepper hasn't always had a strong period. This year a lot of people are saying pepper is having a good year. I believe two years ago was a great season, 2014 was a regular year, on the bad side. Now we're kind of in between. It depends on what the second half brings to conclude it. The expectations are positive. It has been hot in Europe and this means the southern European production will probably be later this autumn. In the past it was getting difficult to get good prices in September due to the pressure from Spain. Hopefully the expectations are right this year."

For more information:
Peter Bartels
Doornlaarlei 6
2840 Rumst
Tel: +32 (0)15 31 46 29+32 (0)15 31 46 29
barver.bvba@telenet.be
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