“You do not want to throw anything away if you do not really have to," says Luc Monden of the Dutch herb nursery, De Kruidenaer. Yet, that may well happen if a sales alternative is not quickly found. This is needed for the herbs standing in this company's greenhouse in Etten-Leur, the Netherlands. “With things as they stand, we had 2,000 to 2,500 kg of basil - our biggest product - leftover last week. And the moment at which we will have to start throwing herbs out is coming ever closer."
That is why they are feverishly looking for sales alternatives. They hope their message on LinkedIn might provide an alternative. "We are not so much looking for trade, although that would be welcome. We are looking for people who would be happy to receive this great product," explains Luc.
Photo: Basil in the nursery's greenhouse. Source: LinkedIn
Hospitality industry cancellations, retail orders slowly increasing
More local and overseas hospitality businesses closed at the beginning of last week. Since then, the cancellations from De Kruidenaer's food service clients have been streaming in. "And the cancellation and lowering of more and more fixed orders are just continuing." Fortunately for this herb nursery, more than half of its sales do not go to the hospitality industry. Retailers are buying from them as per usual. "In fact, most of them are ordering a little more every day."
Logistics via brokers and air freight still good
De Kruidenaer is also not yet having any problems with transport, says Luc. “Much of our overseas trade is done via brokers. They are still managing the logistics of it." That applies to imports too. "We grow basil year-round. We have our own chervil at the moment; otherwise, we import it. Eighty percent is trucked in, and the rest comes via airfreight. Airfreight transport is currently still good."
90% less demand for mint
The herb farmer is, however, importing considerably less of certain herb varieties. This is in response to the decline in demand. "Mint is one of our main import products. Here, we are currently seeing a 90% lower demand. If the hospitality industry is gone, mint is gone, is very true in this situation. This is annoying for us. But our grower in Spain is really in trouble. He does not grow mint only for us."
Harvesting and freezing
As stated, basil is De Kruidenaer's main product. That has always been a herb that does not, for example, freeze well. That can sometimes be done to herbs. "Basil blackens when you just refrigerate it. So, it cannot easily be frozen," says Luc. “We are looking into how to freeze this product. We focus on a fresh product with a short shelf life. That is forcing us to start harvesting now. So, we would love to hear from anyone who might have an idea about freezing this product."
Might slow down cultivation
And delaying the cultivation process in anticipation of what may come? "Yes, we are certainly considering that. We can slow it down somewhat. We will keep harvesting and growing, but it will all be at a slower-than-usual pace. We can control and delay this with, for instance, an adjusted light recipe. That is an advantage we have over open air and full soil cultivation."
Anything else? "Now, it is just a matter of wait-and-see. We are also keeping as much contact as possible with our clients. We try not to push too hard because everyone is struggling. Even, for example, the greengrocers and market vendors in the area. They sometimes buy from us," concludes Luc.
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