Soft fruit and niche products could gain fresh importance in 2016 -

Soft fruit and niche products could gain fresh importance in 2016

Berries will be a key European import product during the year ahead, with the success of blueberries helping to drive the category and other former niche products forward in the agendas of retailers and wholesalers across the continent.

Sven Heinsohn of Global Fruit Point

Sven Heinsohn of Global Fruit Point

This is the prediction of Sven Heinsohn, co-owner of major German fresh produce importer Global Fruit Point, who says both non-traditional products and sources are likely to gain prominence in many European markets over the months ahead.

Heinsohn, who oversees the company with colleagues Matthias Neuel and René Struve at its headquarters in Buxtehude near Hamburg, believes Peru will continue to become increasingly important as a source for Europe’s fruit importers, while India will also have a greater presence in the region following well-documented difficulties.

Predicting that berries would be top of the agenda for importers in 2016, Heinsohn says he also expects to see an increasing demand for pomegranates, Hass avocados and fibreless mangoes.

“While the consumption of standard products like deciduous and citrus has remained more or less stable, we see an increasing demand for what used to be niche products, such as pomegranates, litchis and a broad variety of berries, triggered off by the recent success of blueberries,” he explains.

“Hass avocados have also become a standard item for retail outlets.”

“From a sourcing point of view, several non-traditional origins will be the focus – In Peru, we see a great potential for the forthcoming years, and also India will be more present on the European market again,” Heinsohn adds.

However, despite his optimism for market growth over the year ahead, Heinsohn says the El Niño weather phenomenon has posed a serious threat to crops in some of the company’s most important sourcing regions, in particular to grapes, cherries and blueberries in South America, and citrus and avocados in South Africa.

“As far as we can judge, the damages were less severe than expected, but we hope our partners in the exporting countries won’t be affected by any further effects of El Niño,” he says.

Climate challenges

Speaking at this year’s Fruit Logistica trade show in Berlin, Edwin Vanlaerhoven, commercial director of major Netherlands-based importer-exporter Valstar Holland, said companies throughout the fresh produce sector were assessing the impact of recent climatic problems.

In particular, unexpectedly high winter temperatures in southern Spain had reportedly led to an increased threat from pests and disease, with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers said to have been among the crops hardest hit.

This, said Vanlaerhoven, had resulted in damage to Spanish export products, which had meant that supply and demand had not been in balance.

Also present at the show was German producer-importer Don Limon, whose export manager Debjit Ghosh said his company’s production and supplies from India and South Africa in particular had been adversely affected by unexpectedly dry conditions.

Ghosh explained that drought in South Africa was expected to reduce volumes of table grapes being imported, while production in India has also been affected by a partial drought and cold weather.

These conditions had negatively affected the sugar content of Thompson Seedless, which he said was likely to result in lower than expected volumes of the variety being harvested in the country.