Prognosfruit is a yearly congress that has been organized uninterruptedly since 1976, each year in another European country. The congress is an initiative of COPA-COGECA, the European agricultural organization. This year, the organization of the congress is in the hands of the Association of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives (VBT), together with the World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA).
There are well over 260 participants from 15 countries, coming from Austria to Canada, from Moldovia to the US, and from Serbia to Italy.
The key focus of the congress is the professional evaluation of the past apple and pear marketing season and of the perspectives for the upcoming season. This analysis will be presented by WAPA and the German market research organization AMI, specialized in data analysis for the agricultural and horticultural sector.
On Friday August 9, working visits are organized to the breeding company Better3Fruit in Rillaar – a key player in the search for new apple varieties, and to pcfruit in Sint-Truiden – the European leader in precision farming with drones.
Statistics for Belgium (Luc Vanoirbeek – VBT) and Europe (Philippe Binard – WAPA)
In Belgium, total pear production in the season 2019/2020 is estimated at 330 894 ton, with an average of 31.9 tons/ha. This is 10.3% lower than the 2018/2019 season and 6.7% higher than the 2017/2018 season.
Total apple production for the 2019/2020 season is estimated at 229 161 ton, with an average production of 39.5 tons/ha. The expected harvest is similar to this of the season 2018/2019 and 161% higher than the 2017/2018 season – that was characterized by frost during spring nights.
Particularities of the 2019/2020 season include: Again, this year is characterized by hail damage, and – especially during the most recent weeks – by sun burn on apples and pears.
The European apple production for the season 2019/2020 is estimated at 10 555 796 ton, a decrease of 20% compared to the record high production of last season of 8% compared to the average of the past three seasons.
The European pear production is estimated at 2 047 323 ton; a 14% decrease compared to the production of previous season. Contradictory to the record high apple production, the previous season noted an average pear production. Compared to the average of the previous three seasons, the 2019/2020 pear production is expected to be 9% lower.
The 2019/2020 season is characterized by particular weather and growing circumstances, of which the impact varies significantly by region. The winter was mild, and followed by cold months of April and May. Afterwards, several countries and regions were influenced by a heat wave, combined with drought. Several regions reported frost and hail. This, combined with the physiological reaction to the bumper high apple harvest in 2018 and the decrease in pear acreage, will result in a smaller apple and pear harvest in the season 2019/2020.
Eight challenges for the Belgian and European fruit sector
- Finding and exploring new markets as to compensate for the loss of the Russian market
- European trade agreements with several partners in the world
The sector is not negative about these agreements, as far as there is a level playing field for the (fruit) trade.
The United Kingdom is the number four export market for Belgian fruit. During the past year, about 34 000 tons of pears and 10 000 tons of apples have been sold to the British. The uncertainty about the future trade relationships with the UK results in a lot of agitation in the European fruit sector.
- European politics
- The situation where farmers pay the bill for a geopolitical conflict must end as soon as possible.
- If the above is not possible, the EU needs to compensate for the loss of the famers as long as the conflict lasts.
- We evaluate the way the EU supports Member States. European financing may not contribute to the distortion of markets, by supporting supplies in a suplus-market.
- Innovation in marketing
- At the level of new varieties with special consideration for consumers’ demand, and at the level of new marketing techniques; significant changes are to be expected in the way fruit is commercialized.
- Innovation in technology
- With regard to production techniques, improvements need to be realized by means of precision farming – resulting in better results with less inputs.
- Strengthening the position of the farmer in the agro-food supply chain
- Cooperatives can play a major role; producers can obtain a stronger position in the chain by the concentration of their supply. In that way, producers’ organizations are a security against unfair trading practices.
- Quality should remain a key priority.
Consumers shall blindly trust the quality of our products. However, this is not only the responsibility of the producer, but of all chain members – from tree to plate.
- Improving risk management
- We need efficient insurance products, that enable us to ensure the production against disasters – e.g. hail, storm, drought, heat. It is to be expected that these disasters will appear more frequently in the future. Preparedness is needed.
- Incentives for producers to ensure their production in a sustainable way, need to be elaborated.
- Sustainable development
- Sustainable development is a key task of the fruit sector.
The fruit sector engages in sustainable production. This engagement is a base of the sustainability project of the VBT producers’ organizations – Responsibly Fresh Goodness by nature. This label emphasizes three topics of sustainability: the added value of cooperatives as to strengthen producers, the produce that are healthy by nature, and the production and commercialization with respect for the environment.
- With this project, the sector wants to support the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.