BThe Elgish cooperative BelOrta had a record annual turnover of € 497 million. in 2021, despite a year of uncertainty and challenges, including Covid-19, a wet summer, scarce raw materials and high energy costs.
Market conditions may have varied for each product, but the commitment of BelOrta’s growers remained unchanged, the cooperative revealed.
According to BelOrta, a fall in tomato volumes was somewhat offset by higher prices caused by Spain’s lower area and the cold spell in southern Europe.
Rising competition from cheaper producers in the south and expansion of production in places like Poland allegedly made pricing difficult for a number of vegetables, including courgettes, peppers and aubergines.
While asparagus and leeks enjoyed decent spring prices due to limited supplies, sales of both products became more difficult as the year progressed and volumes advanced.
Growing winter cauliflower has extended the season, allowing BelOrta to offer locally produced cauliflower all winter.
According to the cooperative, lower amounts of chicory in 2020 ensured that the chicory supply remained manageable for much of 2021.
“The beginning of the year saw a balanced market with correct prices,” said BelOrta. “A cold spring led to good demand and good prices in April and May. A mild September hit the demand for chicory, but the market revived in October and early November with better prices. In December, in turn, there were larger international supplies. the mild weather led to a more difficult market. “
The wettest summer ever reduced berry production and consumption. Meanwhile, the cherry harvest landed in the middle of an unusually high rainfall, leading to a limited harvest.
Low inputs of apples reportedly yielded reasonable prices in the spring of 2021, while the large harvest in the autumn, combined with high volumes from Central and Eastern Europe, resulted in a difficult market situation.
“For pears, we saw the reverse story,” BelOrta reported, “with a big harvest and a more difficult market in the spring and a smaller European harvest with better prices in the fall.”
Sustainability remains central
The unfavorable weather did not prevent BelOrta’s growers from expanding their ecological area further. Last year, organic asparagus became available at BelOrta for the first time. Organic cucumbers, chicory and on-the-vine tomatoes are still the top three products in the organic range.
In 2021, BelOrta launched the Landmark for products in transition to organic. “With this, we want to provide both trade and consumers with more and better information and at the same time create better market opportunities for these fruits and vegetables in transition,” says the cooperative.
BelOrta continued on its sustainable path in 2021, including its anti-waste efforts with Too Good To Go, its development of fully recyclable rPET strawberry powders and its transition to collapsible green boxes. In 2021, BelOrta Greenhouse was also launched, the world’s first hybrid food truck greenhouse.
Breeders are challenging themselves
In 2022, BelOrta revealed plans to continue marketing efforts from last year and place greater emphasis on the cooperative’s breeders as ambassadors.
“Thanks to the tireless efforts and dedication of our growers, we were able to continuously serve Belgian consumers last year with delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, regardless of closures, catering closures, health crises, etc.,” it says.
“Rising logistics, energy and labor costs, general inflation, the next Brexit phase, long delivery times and a lot of uncertainty about the availability of raw materials are a source of concern,” BelOrta continued. “In addition, there is also the market, which is constantly changing with new retail models and consumer expectations, how fast change is the message. BelOrta continues to invest in research into diversification for our growers. Promising new varieties and types of fruits and vegetables will be introduced and will enrich the offer. That way we look forward positively. “