“Organic greenhouse vegetables had a good year. But, we ended the season on quite a difficult note. For a few years now, our retail clients have been switching to Spanish products sooner. About ten years ago, we could deliver until the end of the season, in week 49. That's gradually become earlier and earlier," says Krist Hamerlinck of Eco Veg in Belgium.
"This year, one of our retail clients switched in week 42 already. That's six weeks before the end of the harvest. You could start supplying new markets at that time. But, then you'd have to drop your prices way down. And even then, you'd often not sell anything. That's mainly because Spain can increasingly deliver a good product earlier in the season. And this year, this was at a very low price too."
"Organic production in Spain had increased by double digits. But, there's been a decline in the Benelux over the last three years. It might also not improve. We plan to get rid of a rented plot. If prices are so low that the slightest setback affects you, it's better to stop. In our case, nematodes are the culprit, especially in tomato cultivation. That's not a problem with the aubergine and bell peppers we grow. And we have several cucumber crops a year. So, that's less easily affected too."
Despite the tough end, Eco Veg had a reasonable season. "Since the coronavirus outbreak, we've been doing well. We sold more than last year. But that's been happening for years. Although this year's prices were good, they weren't top prices. It was striking that this year, packaged products, like cucumbers, sold well. According to our retail clients, everything that's packaged sold better. That has to do with hygiene and the virus. Yet it's never been proven that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food," says Krist.
Great year for aubergines
In contrast to last year, this year's heatwave had little effect on production, says Hamerlinck. "Our bell peppers and aubergines actually grew very well, thanks to the good spring. We've had a lot of light since March. That's resulted in top productions. Never before have we grown so many aubergines. Despite the high production levels, all the products have sold well."
Eco Veg's activities are currently 'in hibernation'. But this company never stops. "For 2021, 80% of our products have already been sold in advance. Almost all our tomatoes have been sold. That's due to this product's smaller acreage. The daily prices were high this year. But, it was still challenging to increase the 2021 season's program prices. One of our Belgian retail clients even demanded lower prices. Fortunately, we have broad sales opportunities."
"So, we could satisfy other clients. However, it always leaves a bad taste in your mouth when we have to send Belgian products to Scandinavia. That, while we have to buy products for Belgian clients from outside Belgium. There are more traffic jams and higher CO2 emissions. And for what? Our products may not be as cheap as the Spanish ones, but they're fresher," concludes Krist.