In the past the Netherlands supplied bell peppers to the North American market from April through to October. But the increased summer cultivation in Mexico has shortened this window for the Netherlands to only June, July and August. However, Marcel van der Pluijm from Dutch exporter Global Green Team is still optimistic about the future of export to the U.S., "Dutch fruit vegetable export to the U.S. will never cease."
Global Green Team was established in January 2012 and has grown into a global trading company with a wide range of fruits and vegetables, and is a specialist in air freight transportation. Their focus is on exporting fruit vegetables from growers in the Netherlands, Israel and Spain. Their clientèle include retailers, wholesalers, service providers and caterers.
Marcel van der Pluijm with the Enjoya-paprika during United Fresh
A good year for bell peppers
As team leader, Marcel is responsible for export to the U.S. and Canada. The team also includes Arno Verboom, Jos Hagen and Demian van Duivenbode. For export to the U.S., bell peppers are by far the most important product, "It was a very good year for bell peppers. August was especially good, it showed us that there is enormous potential in the U.S. market. It should be mentioned that everything went our way this year: Mexico did not have enough products, Canadian growers faced growing problems and we were able to take advantage of the strong dollar. Hopefully this will continue, but there are no guarantees. The situation could be totally different next year. We have slowly started with the Spanish fruit vegetable season."
Next step: year round supplier
Although Canadian cultivation has grown in recent years, Marcel sees the year round Mexican cultivation as their main competitor on the North American market, "An advantage for us is that our bell peppers reach our customers in the U.S. by airplane within 48 hours, while it takes a least five days from Mexico. But we are not closing our eyes to the growth in high-tech greenhouse cultivation in Mexico. The next step is to become a year round supplier, and that can only happen in collaboration with overseas producers. That is not yet the case, but perhaps in the future we will be able to play a role in Mexican production for our North American customers."
Since 2010 Dutch bell peppers exported to Canada are taxed 193% of the value of the imported goods; this came about after Canadian growers filed a case against Dutch growers on suspicion of dumping their bell peppers on the Canadian market in 2009, "We have shown that dumping did not occur. This month the decision will be announced whether the tax will be extended for another five years or not."
Majority fruit vegetables
"Although we supply products like endive and sprouts, fruit vegetables make up the majority of our assortment. There is always demand for the so-called 'specialties'. This year we introduced the reddish-yellow striped Enjoya bell pepper on a small scale and there was definitely interest. In the coming year we will expand the growing area for this product," says Marcel. "Greenhouse strawberry cultivation is growing in the U.S. and I believe that will continue over the coming years, but that only offers opportunities for local cultivation. Strawberries do not do well in overseas export."
The exporter does not see Urban Farming projects (like rooftop greenhouses and urban gardens) in the U.S. as competition, "These projects do draw a lot of attention, but they could never supply the volumes required by the market. A rooftop garden simply does not have access to enough acres. Although I do believe that these sorts of initiatives can lead to more awareness surrounding vegetables and healthy eating. That is of paramount importance in the U.S. Demand for greenhouse grown vegetables has significantly increased in the U.S., at the expense of outdoor grown vegetables, and that offers huge opportunities for us!"
Global Green Team is an active exhibitor at the Holland pavilion (stand 3747), which is part of the PMA (Produce Marketing Association). From October 23rd - 25th PMA is putting on the Fresh Summit Conference and Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.