Farmers worry over price wars as Jumbo supermarkets open in Belgium

Farmers worry over price wars as Jumbo supermarkets open in Belgium
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Jumbo opened a supermarket on Wednesday in Pelt, Limburg, its first in Belgium, and plans two more this year in Lanaken (Limburg) and Rijkevorsel (Antwerp), sparking fears among Belgian farmers of a price war at their expense.

The Dutch mass distribution chain plans to build about 100 stores in Flanders in five years. It does not yet have any concrete plans for Wallonia and Brussels, but says it is interested in looking into the prospects offered by the Francophone market.

Jumbo also said 15% of its products will be Belgian – mainly meats, fresh produce and bread.

The supermarket chain is known for its low prices. However, it stressed at a Tuesday news conference in Pelt that it would not launch a price war in Belgium. Financial Director Ton Van Veen said Jumbo had no intention of applying the lowest-price guarantee. “It’s not about guaranteeing the lowest price but guaranteeing that we offer a wide range with low prices, just like Colruyt,” he explained.

Flanders’ farmers were not convinced. “Time will tell whether that’s really the case […] because the Jumbo bosses in the Netherlands are known for springing surprises,” commented the President of the Boerenbond farmers’ association, Sonja De Becker, describing Jumbo’s plans as “worrying”.

Another Flemish farmers’ organisation, ABS, also expressed concern. “We hope there will not be a mad race for the lowest prices, particularly in the fresh produce sector,” said ABS President Hendrik Vandamme.

Should a price war occur, farmers would pay the price, the organisations feel. “Promotional offers are acceptable, even indispensable, but slashing prices to a totally irresponsible level, even if it means putting pressure on suppliers and, in the final analysis, on producers themselves, is not acceptable,” Sonja De Becker stressed.

The Brussels Times

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