The first shipments of Moroccan tomatoes will arrive at Vegimex at ABC Westland in Poeldijk at the end of September, with the large volumes bursting loose in October. “After the difficult season last year, the new season looks more positive. There is a lot less supply on the market and the prices are a lot better,” says director Willem Schrage.
Willem has been working in the Moroccan cultivation for twenty years, speaks the language and has been active as the director of Vegimex, a new player on the market, as of this year. From Poeldijk he takes care of the distribution of the Moroccan fruit and vegetables, mainly supplied from own cultivation, together with colleague Robbert de Mie.
Although the company was only founded at the start of this year, the company hasn’t had any problems with sales. “If you have a good trade, you have customers,” laughs Willem. “A lot of Moroccan trade is bought in Perpignan. This is done through multiple links and everyone has to make some money from it. Thanks to our direct lines we don’t have to deal with that and we can offer fresher produce.”
Besides tomatoes and peppers, Vegimex has their own cultivation of watermelons and oranges. The company also has collaboration agreements with local growers. “In total, we now have around 70 hectares of greenhouses and as well as this still have supply from open ground cultivation of courgettes and melons. We try to expand our greenhouse acreage by 30% annually. That was by over 20 hectares this year. So far 80% of the supply is own cultivation, but we want to move to 100%.”
Vegimex has this option thanks to its Moroccan partners. “They invest a lot and are ambitious. We will profit from this over the coming years,” says Willem. The advantage of the partners in Morocco is also that they are constant eyes and ears on the ground in the field and in the greenhouse. “All trade, even anything purchased, is checked before shipment. All suppliers are GlobalGap certified.”
At the moment Vegimex is mainly focusing on wholesalers throughout Europe, but in the long term the company also wants to supply retailers. “We need the mass, preferably volumes from half a container up. That’s where our profit is and where we’re strong. We don’t concern ourselves with trade in boxes, that’s for a whole different type of customer,” says Willem.
He believes the trade with Russia is still too risky, but the company exports to wholesalers in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom. Vegimex doesn’t have their own storage in the Netherlands, but Willem says they don’t need it. “Here at the ABC grounds, I can hire cooled storage anywhere. Ideal, as this means we can focus on our trade.”
The Moroccan vegetable season runs from around October to April. “We can supply until July, but when there are enough Dutch tomatoes on the market, we have to make sure that we’re out of the way. In recent months we have been concerned with our Moroccan watermelons and Maroc late oranges and are also orienting towards picking up the import from other countries, but Morocco will always be our number 1 supply country,” concludes Willem.
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