As Belgians prepare for holiday dinners, although quite probably with fewer guests than anticipated due to the new coronavirus restrictions, certain fruits and vegetables are hitting their peak sales.
In particular, demand for Brussels sprouts is especially high.
“During Christmas, demand is traditionally up to 25% higher than normal because people tend to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables than during other periods,” Maarten Verhaegen, divisional head of vegetable sales at BelOrta, told the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
A popular Christmas ingredient
Brussels sprouts are a typical Flemish Christmas vegetable – “the turkey among vegetables” as Verhaegen likes to refer to them.
Their prices normally soar at the end of the year and this year the Christmas effect has been even greater.
“This is probably because growers have harvested fewer sprouts due to the poorer pricing in previous years,” said Verhaegen. “A few percent less crop has an immediate and strong effect on price formation.”
Low supply, high demand
Aside from sprouts, parsley sales have quadrupled this year: “We sell four times the volume of parsley around Christmas time than during normal days. This is a product that features as an ingredient in many dishes.”
While growers usually account for an increased Christmas appetite when planning harvests, VILT says the supply of tomatoes is lower this year due to high energy prices prompting many growers to reduce their heating, leading to less growth and therefore less production.
This has boosted both demand and prices.
The best times to shop
The latest price insights are gathered from auction sales, which indicate the expected consumer behavior for grocery store shoppers.
“Supermarkets buy large volumes at the beginning of the week and are afraid that there will not be enough,” Verhaegen said, adding that he expected peak shopping days to be Monday and Tuesday next week – the 27th and 28th of December.
“You are better off going to the shops next week on Thursday or Friday. It will be much quieter in supermarkets then,” he says. “The first week of the new year traditionally sees a dip in sales and it is quiet. People have their bellies full and use up the leftovers in the fridge.”