Tholen – With current costs, it is difficult for many fruit growers to make ends meet. Certainly for the Belgian Jonagold growers, it is almost impossible to make a good profit in the current market. “The fruit looks really good this season, but the prices are really bad,” says Xavier Laduron of Fairebel, whose basic philosophy is that everyone in the entire chain should be able to live well. “A grower will always have to earn back his cost price with a fair price.”
12 years ago, Fairebel, the fair milk label, was introduced in Belgium by farmers fighting for fair wages for their work. From November 2020, Belgian apples and pears will also be sold under the same brand. “If the milkman succeeded, why shouldn’t we as fruit growers succeed? Our sector has been in deep trouble for years.” The apples and pears from dozens of fruit growers who have joined the Faircoop cooperative are now on the shelves under the Fairebel brand. The cooperative manages the brand. “It’s for farmers, by farmers.”
For example, Faircoop asked PCFruit to investigate the exact cost price of a kilo of Jonagold apples or Conference pears. “Almost no grower knows exactly what the actual cost price is for his fruit, but the investigation showed that it ended up being even higher than we had thought. If you then see that a kilo of Jonagold apples in Belgian supermarkets costs 99 euro cents over going to the counter is something to swallow. After all, no one in the chain can live off such a price. It must be improved, there is no other solution,” explains the grower, who himself grows top fruit on 35 hectares.
Why is a Jonagold inferior to a Pink Lady?
The Fairebel apples and pears are currently on the shelves of Carrefour and Colruyt. “Carrefour is a partner and has almost always introduced our new products since the beginning. At Colruyt, however, it has required something. A first reaction when we approach the retail trade is almost always negative. They are afraid that it will be too expensive and that people don’t want to pay for it these days. But if I see that a kilo of Pink Lady apples is sold for 4 euros per kilo, why is a kilo of Jonagold 99 eurocents? Then people often say: “It’s different. is the Pink Lady.”
Xavier does not believe that the consumer would miss the fruit with the current inflation. “First there was the corona, now it’s the energy crisis. There’s always something. I definitely don’t want to belittle the crisis, but the planes are still overcrowded. People go skiing again during the winter holidays. A large part of people still always have enough money to buy , what they want. Food remains one of the most important expenditure items, because people always keep eating. For many consumers, the 2 euros does not mean much, but for the growers and everyone in the chain, it is a world of difference.”
Million dollar campaign or word of mouth
But according to the grower, you have to tell the story. “Without marketing, it’s impossible. Then you have two choices: either you spend millions on a campaign, or we go to the stores to tell the story of local and honest to consumers. These days, consumers are also more open to honest history People are becoming more and more aware. For example, we are often in the shops and I notice that 99 percent of the people who taste my fruit do not even ask about the price. Then eventually it can explode through word of mouth.” The quality of the products is therefore of crucial importance. “We not only want a good price, but also deliver a quality product. If the consumer pays a higher price, he or she must be able to see that reflected in the quality of the product. We must respect the consumer.”
In the future, the cooperative may also look at other product groups to be marketed under the brand, but for now the focus is on top fruit. “Simply put, it just needs all our attention. Quantities are still limited, but we welcome any professional fruit grower to Faircoop. Two years ago, hardly anyone heard of a fair price, but now the conversation is starting to get more started and Der however, there is still a world to gain,” concludes Xavier.
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