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Vegetable market calm; fruit unsettled because of problems in East, reports ODC.

The autumn of 1992 found the European market for frozen vegetables to be unusually calm compared with recent years. Despite widespread drought on the Continent's northern and eastern peripheries, output from the Benelux amply compensated for the shortfall and stabilized most prices.

It was another story with several fruit varieties, however, as raspberries and strawberries rose in price following poor harvests in eastern Europe and continued violence in the war-torn regions of what was formerly Yugoslavia. "Nobody wants to risk transporting the produce out of there for fear of being shot at. And, of course, there is an embargo in effect," said Gerard van Wetten, marketing manager of Oerlemans Diepvries Centrale (ODC).

The Dutch supplier of fruits and vegetables recently moved its sales, marketing and logistics departments from Broekhuizenvorst to Venlo, joining affiliates Improver Frozen Foods and the Kleiberg Food Division under a single roof. Its freezing facility boasts 80,000 square meters of space able to accommodate 19,000 pallets.

In November van Wetten provided Quick Frozen Foods International magazine with analysis of then-current market conditions. The situation was said to be satisfactory for cabbage, Brussels sprouts, celery and washed, cut and Parisien carrots. Details on other varieties follow.

Peas

The yield in Belgium, France and the Netherlands was good, with a tendency toward a somewhat finer quality. Harvests in Scandinavia, Poland and Hungary were only 60% of normal, leading to increased demand for fine and medium-fine peas. Expectations that prices would advance in the United Kingdom - following a 15% reduction in cultivation area and a short harvest - were not met since consumption declined by 15%.

Beans

Green bean harvests in the Benelux and France were robust. The yield was initially 15-20% higher than usual. The second half of the harvest saw a return to "normal" levels brought on by cooler weather. Meanwhile, the situation in northern Europe and in Poland was significantly poorer as yields fell by as much as 40%. Prices dropped slightly, but the market should stabilize since Polish supplies will be much less than last year.

The price for extra quality whole beans from Italy increased by about 8%. No problems were reported with garden, butter and french beans. However, due to the drought romeno bean harvests in Hungary were off by 40%.

Broccoli

The supply of multiple sizes of loose broccoli tips was unreliable during the summer. Deliveries from Peru and Guatemala due in the autumn should offset any shortage through early 1993.

Kohlrabi

This is one of the few vegetable products in limited supply Parched summer months caused major damage in some growing areas. That, combined with increased demand and not enough area under cultivation, has left kohlrabi short.

Maize

Maize (corn) yields in Hungary were a little below what is typical. Due to the trade embargo, imports from the former Yugoslavia will be minimal. France still held carry-over stocks when the new harvest began. Meanwhile, dollar-denominated stocks from Canadian, USA and Israeli suppliers were relatively low in price due to favorable exchange rates. Few near term pricing changes are anticipated.

Peppers

No difficulties are expected in the primary growing countries of Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary. Turkey will determine market prices this season, which will likely be well below those of the last two years. Spanish produce (California wonder type) has fallen slightly in cost, but is still 25-30% more expensive than that which is available from the "bargain countries."

Minced Onions, Carrots

These "volume products" were imported from Poland over the past few years at very attractive prices. The Poles, however, are no longer interested in being low-cost producers. Hence it has been projected that prices will rise 5-10%.

Raspberries

Hungary's crop yielded 60-70% of normal, all of which was reserved by preferred customers well before the harvest. Poland produced small amounts of frozen raspberries because land under cultivation has been greatly scaled back during the last few years. At any rate, much of the tonnage now ends up being exported in non-frozen form. Harvests in the former Yugoslavia were slightly less than "normal," but the percentage of whole berries was relatively high. Given the crumbling country's current political and economic problems, shipments reaching export markets under such extreme circumstances are premium-priced. Cheaper quotes are not likely to come before there is a feel for likely quantities of Chilean imports which will start arriving in late January.

Cherries, Blueberries

The price for cherries has fallen markedly following a good crop. Meanwhile, the Polish blueberry harvest was very poor. It seems that pickers were unwilling to expose themselves to the danger of forest fires which could easily break out in the tinder-dry brush. Elsewhere, the Canadian forecast was good.

Strawberries

The Polish crop was only 40% of capacity, resulting in rapidly rising prices. Available supply held in that country is extremely limited, and prices continue to advance. It is likely that shortages in 1993 will have to be filled by imports from South America.

Groko's New Side Dishes

Add Value to Vegetables

Value added side dishes are what sets Campbell's Groko BV apart from many of its competitors. The Zundert, Netherlands-based frozen vegetables specialist recently introduced a new range of such products in 150g retail packs. Featured recipes include creamed spinach, bean with bacon sauce, corn, sprouts, red cabbage and apples.

Quick Fozen Foods International caught up with the company's managing director, Leo F. de Bruijn,at he SIAL Exhibition in Paris during October. He characterized then-current market conditions as abundant with both crops and buyers seeking to renegotiate contracts.

Noting that canned vegetables were being priced at the same level as eight years ago, de Bruijn said: "Price has become an important weapon. We use it all the time."

Groko finds itself in a good position to compete, having invested over 10 million guilders during the last two years to build one of the most modern factories in Europe. "very few frozen vegetable plants are as automated as ours," stated the managing director. "Our state-of-the-art logistics systems has even dispensed with forklifts in favor of far more efficient shuttle cars and robots."

The Dutch company, which has been building its brand image for over 20 years, exclusively sells what of imported broccoli. But soon that too will be sourced from the Netherlands, giving the Campbell unit total control over production of its popular line of value added broccoli dishes.

Groko exports throughout the Continent and to global destination further afield. Its label is also found on potato products.
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Title Annotation:News from Europe; poor harvests in Eastern Europe cause fruit price rises reports Oerlemans Diepvries Centrale
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:1077
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