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Benoit Demedts, Demedts - Demey:

"Warm September created Belgian strawberry supply gap"

The Belgian strawberry supply is currently lagging slightly. Lit cultivation has yet to get well and truly underway, and the fall crops are genuinely coming to an end. Also at the Demedts - Demey nursery. "We still have some standing, but not as much as other years," begins Benoit Demedts.

Benoit grows strawberries and other soft fruit like raspberries, blueberries, and cherries on two hectares. Of that, 7,000m2 is heated, 5,000m2 is unheated greenhouse, and 8,000m2 is shelving. "We usually have strawberries from early March until mid-Christmas. However, it's much quieter than normal at the moment. We still have one planting in production under glass, which we planted relatively late (late August). The other crops from before mid-August are finished."

Warm September
The main reason for that, says Benoit, was the very hot September. "That made everything go much too fast. The August 24 planting is still of nice quality, but everything before mid-August suffered from the heat. Their quality and kilos were somewhat disappointing," he says.

"It's the same with many fellow growers who normally still have production until late December but whose crops are gradually running out. Almost nothing will be left by mid-December. That's half a month earlier than anticipated. That's the problem when you depend on the weather."

Strawberries are thus fetching high prices at the moment. "We can still deliver some volumes, but the lit cultivation is also still some time away. Not very much overseas supply is entering the market either. Yet, there's definitely demand. We've been working well with [wholesaler] Bouvry for many years," explains Benoit.

"We're getting calls about how many strawberries we'll have. That shows that auctions don't have an abundant supply either. That puts prices under a lot of pressure. This benefits the crops grown under lights; they'll have a good start. The demand is there. We notice that in our farm store, too. Things usually get a little harder when the strawberries are a little pricier, but now the interest remains."

Switching to ever-bearers
For Demedts, that means facing a longer-than-usual winter. "That's not that detrimental for us. We're already cleaning up a bit because we're increasingly switching to ever-bearers. This was the first year we had a nice block of these, with good results," he says. "They had good flavor and weight. Next year, we definitely want to focus more on that and expand into the cold greenhouse crops. Then we'll still have some continuity. Flavor will obviously always prevail, but kilos are also important."

The nursery is also still in raspberry production. "Blueberries and redcurrants have been over for a while, but as long as the weather permits, we'll keep picking raspberries. We'll continue that next year as well. It's a nice addition to our farm. The combination of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and, in the spring, early potatoes and cauliflower complement each other perfectly. Then you have a nice offer all year round, which our customers also appreciate," Benoit concludes.

For more information:
Benoit Demedts
Demedts - De Mey
97z Midden Street
8830, Gits, Belgium
Tel.: +32 (0) 479 690 867
Email: [email protected]

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