In April 2018, Vegetables Market Place (VMP) moved to a new location. This site is in the Dutch area of Poeldijk. It entails 1,600 m2 warehouse space, four loading dock, and three cooling cells. There is also storage space for more than 1,000 pallets. "When we walked in for the first time, we asked ourselves how we would get the warehouse full. Now we sometimes wonder how it is empty again by the afternoon," laughs Lennart Middelburg. He runs the business along with his father, Gert.
Lennart and Gert Middelburg.
The company experienced fairly rapid growth. In the past three years, it doubled in turnover and size. "The demands quite a lot from your organization. We have made quite a few internal changes. With the addition of Ferhat Tivsiz, there is now a young team. They do, however, have the necessary experience. This is a good basis. We want to continue building on this in the future," says Lennart.
Greenhouse vegetables remain the company's core business. Full soil vegetables and fruit are, however, gaining an ever-increasing position in this trading company. "Considering how much citrus and melons we got from Morocco this past summer, we have actually outgrown the name, Vegetables Market Place," jokes Lennart. "But we do not have to offer such a complete assortment. We hardly have any of a category of, for example, soft fruit. That is too risky for us. We only go in search of this is there is a specific inquiry from our clients."
"The Dutch season is now coming to an end. We are switching more to supplies from Spain and Morocco. It was an unusual summer again with the accompanying weather extremes. We got a large volume of vegetables from Poland this summer. With this, we can distinguish ourselves well on the market. Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, bell peppers, iceberg lettuce, cauliflower - if there is a shortage of these products in the Netherlands, people find us quickly. For example, there was a period where there were no Dutch cherry tomatoes to be found. We, however, had this product available. We sourced it from Spain," says the trader.
Many mixed loads
For contracts, VMP works with several permanent growers. The company, however, gets most of its fruit and vegetables on the free market. "This works perfectly for us. We are independent. We can buy when and where we want. We sell to a broad client base. It is made up of wholesalers, but also companies that supply hospitality establishments and caterers. We provide a lot of mixed loads. These range from onions and cabbage to tomatoes and bell peppers. We do not directly supply supermarkets," explains Lennart.
"We have clients throughout Europe. Sales to, for example, Ireland, have grown tremendously in the last year. Exports to Scandinavia are also ever-increasing. Import tariffs have now been lifted. The demand from Norway, for example, is, therefore, on the rise again. We export to countries such as Malta, Greece, and Austria too. We do not only import products from Poland. We have also started serving more clients in Poland and other Eastern European countries. This is since Marta Iwaniec joined our team. After all, things run smoother when you speak the same language," continues Middelburg.
Clarity over Brexit desired
"We used to export a lot to Russia. But, we have successfully overcome this setback by finding new destinations. We are also growing rapidly alongside our clients," says the fruit and vegetable trader. When it comes to exports to the United Kingdom, Brexit has been hanging over the market for the last year. Lennart is, however, not overly concerned. "The Brits will keep needing fruit and vegetables. But it is crucial to get clarity now - any which way. People have had enough of this uncertainty."
The winter season is approaching. VMP, therefore, once more, has more refrigeration space to offer third parties. "In the summer, we desperately need these cells for our own products. Now, we have more room available again," says Lennart. In February next year, the business will make its appearance as an exhibitor for the first time at Fruit Logistica in Berlin. "We will first see how that goes. In this way, we take one step at a time," concludes Lennart.