In the winter, many Dutch companies focus on Spanish greenhouse vegetables. At StC in the town of De Lier, however, the emphasis is on Moroccan production. "We work closely with our growers whom we use to fill our programs. These programs are mainly for importers in the Netherlands," says Jan van der Kaden.
"Many Dutch companies do not want to reinvent the wheel with Morocco. They want us to organize everything - from cultivation and customs to packaging and supply. We connect growers and clients directly. In this way, we involve farmers in the sales process. These short chains and our transparency are our strengths."
Turnaround in progress
Meanwhile, the Moroccan tomato supply is getting going. "We are getting mainly loose, cherry, and cherry plum tomatoes. This year, we are supplementing our assortment with plum tomatoes, Intense plum tomatoes, and TOV. You did not see many of these newcomers coming from Morocco in the past," says Jan.
"The mini tomatoes segment was especially cheap. A turnaround is now in progress, and shortages are slowly developing. The Netherlands and Poland are off the market when it comes to loose tomatoes. And in Morocco, these are not getting going very smoothly. This is due to the low temperatures in that country and the tomatoes' lack of color. Prices are, therefore, reaching a healthier level."
StC does not only offer tomatoes. They also have Moroccan bell peppers. "These are not entirely successful in competing with Spain when it comes to value-for-money. That is because you can fit relatively few bell peppers in a truck. Transportation is also expensive," explains Van der Kaden.
"The price-quality ratio can, therefore, not compare to Spain. However, the Russian market has remained open for bell peppers. That is partly the reason why there is still demand for Moroccan bell peppers."
This Moroccan specialist does not shy away from more exclusive products. "For example, we are in the test phase for a line of smaller red and green peppers. We also offer mini-courgettes, mini-cucumbers, and mini-aubergines. These may be in smaller amounts, but if well-packaged and transported, they do fulfill a need in the Dutch market," continues Jan.
"This year, we have more land available in Morocco. We, therefore, have a larger package to sell." Jan sees significant advantages to Moroccan cultivation compared to the Spanish supply. "Labor costs are lower, and the quality of cultivation is at a good level. This month, transportation costs to Spain rose by a few hundred euros. While, from Morocco, these costs can be kept at the usual yearly rate," he says.
Attractive in terms of cost-effectiveness
StC is well involved with Moroccan fruit too. "We are getting our first containers of Moroccan clementines now. We follow the citrus season from January to June with oranges. Moroccan avocados are also gaining popularity. We start the season with the Zutano, followed by the Fuerte and Bacon. From April, we offer Moroccan Hass avocados. These are mostly used in programs."
"With these, we have a nice alternative to fill the gaps in the overseas market. Morocco is becoming a stabler supplier of fruit and soft fruit for the European market. The quality is not lacking. We can also reach the market sooner than suppliers from the Southern Hemisphere. That makes things look far more attractive when it comes to cost-effectiveness," concludes Jan.