On May 22, about the same time as last year, Lower Rhine horticultural company Hoffmann could offer the first blueberries of this year's season. The home-fresh produce from unheated glasshouses is marketed mainly in direct marketing, as Managing Director Stefan Hoffmann tells us. "We offer the early blueberries at our two farm stores in Wachtendonk and Straelen and also supply other farm stores in the neighborhood. In about three to four weeks, there will then be larger quantities of free-range produce that will also reach wholesalers and food retailers via the Landfrisch AG cooperative."
The early produce from local cultivation is generally well received. "We are still in the early stages, so we can't say too much yet. But the fact is that we have little competition, especially in the early sector, which is why we enjoy high demand and good prices." At the beginning of the season, prices are around 14 euros/kg. Blueberries are mainly offered in 250g cardboard trays, later in the season, there will also be larger containers, 500g and 1kg.
In the early range, the Hoffmann company focuses on the Star and Duke varieties.
Similar to the company's other greenhouse crops - whether tomatoes, eggplants, or strawberries - it has had to accept significant additional costs in cultivation for blueberries, he said. "We reduced our acreage from about 3.5 hectares to two hectares. The most significant motivation for us was that the trade prices last year were no longer adequate compared to the production costs. This is also partly due to the high competition from Eastern European imports during the peak season. In addition, as a medium-sized company, it is also difficult for us to automate the cultivation process," the grower describes.
Fresh blueberries in 250g cardboard trays.
The Hoffmann horticultural company in the Lower Rhine region entered the blueberry production business about ten years ago. Nowadays, blueberries represent at most a tenth of total sales. Hoffmann: "We had hoped for more from this mainstay, and I don't see any further growth potential at the moment. In this respect, it is more of a stagnating market from my point of view. Nevertheless, early blueberry has been able to establish itself as a great addition to our range, especially in direct marketing."