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Nijs and Teun van Zuilen, BerryBrothers:

"By growing blackberries in a greenhouse, we're extending the 2024 Dutch season from May to early November"

The last Dutch blackberries and raspberries spell the end of the harvesting season at BerryBrothers. Cousins Nijs and Teun van Zuilen reflect on that and consider the weeks ahead. "Our customers are increasingly moving toward a year-round, premium soft fruit package," begins Nijs.

"A wet, cold spring meant far fewer redcurrants this year for us and across the Netherlands. Climate change, but also the shrinking crop protection package, make it more and more challenging to get a good product into storage. We're eager to see how the berries hold up, especially after the wet harvesting weeks we've had. "

"Prices are good. Nearby countries' harvests are ending, too, and demand for our berries from CA cold storage is starting to pick up. I expect prices to keep rising," says Nijs. BerryBrothers markets its red currents toward local and overseas retailers, wholesalers, and food service companies.

This year's Dutch raspberry harvest was as much as 25% lower. "We, unfortunately, picked considerably fewer kilos due to the damp, chilly spring. Demand was good all season, though, and prices are between €12 and €13.50/kg. We try to start the season as early as possible and end as late as possible. That means we can supply Dutch raspberries from mid-May to late October. Availability is slightly more difficult at present, though. Moroccan raspberry imports are slowly starting up, but that's not yet premium quality fruit."

For the second consecutive year, BerryBrothers is betting on the Sweet Royalla blackberry variety. "Its good quality and flavor distinguish it," says Teun.

"Cultivation-wise, we're still learning from this variety every week. Despite the rain in August and the heat in September, we could keep the quality constant."

"We grow the blackberries in a modern foil greenhouse, and from 2024, we want to expand the autumn blackberry crop to a glass greenhouse. Then, we can supply Dutch blackberries from May to early November. Blackberry availability will be somewhat challenging this week. Demand was good this season, with prices now standing at €16 to €18 per kilo," Tuen explains.

"The blueberry season went well, too. The harvest in the Netherlands didn't go quite as smoothly because of the volatile weather. But, in the end, we got the kilos picked and the correct price from Dutch retailers. That will stay the main outlet for Dutch blueberries in the future," adds Nijs.

"Meanwhile, the import season of Peruvian blueberries is in full swing. El Niño has greatly affected production, though. As a result, there are major shortages in the market, which should continue for some time." BerryBrothers will, thus, switch to Moroccan and Portuguese berries.

This year, the company expanded its production area, adding things like a new blueberry filling machine from the Spanish company Azcaval. The growers also looked closely at ergonomic conditions and consequently invested in weighing and packaging. "This has a twofold gain. We improve our staff's working conditions, and it helps to pack our fruit more efficiently. With the increased minimum wages, that's a big plus," Nijs explains.

Berrybrothers is pleased that the long-awaited construction of agro apartments can begin at their primary location. "The run-up took seven years, but if everything goes to plan, the new building will be completed next May/June. That's a milestone for us. People can make or break a company and need somewhere nice to live and sleep. If your housing is well managed, you can move forward."

"In the high season, we have almost 500 people working at our cultivation sites in Roggel and Zoelmond. We also have 80 people working year-round at our main location in Roggel. The increased legal minimum wage, thus, hits us hard. A higher retail price is therefore unavoidable, and there will have to be some room on the sales side to pass on the extra costs," Nijs concludes.

For more information:
Nijs / Teun van Zuilen
18 Nijken, 6088 NR
Roggel, the Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0) 646 708 453
Emails: [email protected] / [email protected]

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