Belgium's apple sector is experiencing a very tough year, the national farmers' union, Boerenbond, said at the start of the picking season.
Local apples should be promoted, for example by making their origin labels clear in the store, the union says. “But more is needed. There should be consultation with all chain partners,” Boerenbond spokesperson Vanessa Saenen stressed.
The Belgian apple industry is struggling with low profit margins and high uncertainty. “There are rising costs for, among other things, packaging (up by 10 cents/kg), energy (refrigerator costs ,+3 cents/kg), higher wage costs (+9%), extreme weather (drought and sunburn) and disrupted sales markets," Ms. Saenen noted.
Added to that, there is "also the decreasing consumption of top fruit, which means Belgian apple growers are experiencing unprecedented heavy weather today,” she added.
Many of the problems are not new, but the crisis in Ukraine is making them worse, as it has saturated the market throughout Europe, the spokesperson explained.
Belgian apples have to compete with cheap imports from abroad, and it is also not always clear to the consumer which apples are locally grown. The Boerenbond therefore advocates a clearer indication of origin in the store, along with a sector-wide plan in which all chain partners participate.
“Over the past ten years, the apple acreage in Belgium has decreased by 30%, while prices remain dramatically low. It is not our intention to grow even fewer apples, but we do want a better price,” Ms. Saenen said.