“Because of the overcast weather, the organic vine tomato season starts two weeks later than normally. We planted the first vine tomatoes around 15 December, and these came into production around 20 March. In the Netherlands, we planted the first vine tomatoes around 10 January, and these are now starting to colour, we’ll soon be able to harvest them,” says Krist Hamerlinck of Eco Veg. “Demand for vine tomatoes isn’t great yet. Most buyers are still working with Spanish or Italian tomatoes. Demand for cucumber is considerably lower than is normal for the time of year. Production isn’t at a high level yet, nor are prices.”
Rising export to US
“We also just started with bell peppers. Late last week, we harvested the first red and yellow ones. Within four or five weeks, the first bell peppers will be exported to the US. The US currently still has plenty of Mexican bell peppers on the market, and Dutch and Belgian ones are too expensive,” Krist continues. “We’re seeing demand for bell peppers increasing in the US every year. This is because the organic production of bell peppers in Mexico and the US is made more difficult by the Picudo beetle, which affects productions.”
Worrying situation in organic sector
The grower and trader has noticed a general pressure on prices in the organic fresh produce sector. “All prices of programmes dropped, while costs for labour, gas, packaging and transport have become more higher. Because we’re forced to lower prices, we chose to halt our expansion plans in Belgium. We’re now looking into options in France, because French customers prefer French product. The Belgian supermarkets prefer Belgian products, but at Dutch and/or Spanish prices. The French are willing to pay more for local product than Belgians,” Krist says. “The area of greenhouse vegetables decreased a bit in the Netherlands. Prices are dropping due to the strong buyer’s position of supermarkets.”
Coeur de boeuf for the Flemish market on the left, cauralina for Walloon on the right.
Graffiti aubergines and coeur de boeuf tomatoes
“Eco Veg started harvesting aubergines a few weeks ago. Volumes are still small, but we’re getting into it now. We’re seeing an increasing demand for graffiti aubergine. This aubergine absorbs less oil during cooking. More and more restaurants and people who know about cooking prefer this variety over regular ones. We’re also seeing demand for coeur de boeuf tomatoes rising. We have two varieties, one of which is beloved in Flanders and the other in Walloon. In the Netherlands, we also sell Arawack (beloved in Flanders), but compared to Flanders, sales are a bit behind. This product should become more familiar in the Netherlands, so that the Dutch can enjoy this wonderful product as well,” Krist concludes.