India is turning into the promised land for Belgian fruit farmers. It is already Belgian apples’ most important non-European market and Belgian pears are also promoted throughout the country.
Answer to Russian boycott
In the first half of 2017, Europe exported nearly 35,000 tons of apples to India and about a third came from Belgian fruit farmers. “Indian export was negligible several years ago, but this year we will reach the milestone of 10 million kilograms of Belgian apples”, Gert van Causenbroeck (who works for Flanders' Agricultural Marketing Board (VLAM) told De Tijd.
That turnaround came about after the Russian boycott, which forced Belgian fruit farmers to look for new markets or face tremendous turnover losses. India quickly became an important target. “Indian income levels are on the rise and the large group of consumers with higher incomes are now spending more on fresh food like fruit”, Van Causenbroeck said. “Retail in Indian cities is also getting organized better and better.”
Other fruit and vegetables as well
In King Filip’s latest state visit, Belgian fruit was an important talking point and the Conference pear in particular: it has not been doing that well so far, which is in part because of its appearance. “The brown bottom is abysmal, because the entire world therefore thinks this is rotten fruit. You have to get people to taste it”, Van Causenbroeck said.
Last week, BelOrta signed a contract with Indian fruit and vegetable importer, IG International. This should lead to increased fresh vegetable exports to India. However, the goal is not to turn India into a new Russia because otherwise, the fruit farmers would once again become dependent on a single country’s situation. “We have no other choice than to diversify and to ship smaller volumes to multiple destinations. That is harder to do, but also gives our farmers an increased level of independence from different nations”, fruit and vegetable auctioneer BelOrta’s CEO, Filip Fontaine, said.