The directors of Belgian fruit auction Veiling Haspengouw, one of Europe's largest suppliers of apples, pears and berries, and international fresh produce trader Univeg have announced they are looking to develop closer commercial ties.
As part of a proposed deal yet to be signed, Univeg is set to take a stake in two of Veiling Haspengouw’s subsidiaries, marketing division H‐Fruit and pear packer H‐Ppack.
Supported by a loan from AIF, the agricultural investment fund of Groep Boerenbond, any such tie-up would be subject to the completion of due diligence and approval from anti‐trust bodies and Belgium’s GMO authority.
Under the revised arrangement, Veiling Haspengouw will continue as a co-operative but have access to Univeg’s broad commercial and distribution network, the aim being to guarantee sustainable returns to growers by accessing as many new and emerging markets as possible.
“Ever since the first talks between Veiling Haspengouw, Univeg and Boerenbond, it was clear that there was an eagerness to write a new chapter for the company, namely to bring our fruit to the world market,” commented Luc Bels, chairman of Veiling Haspengouw. “In doing so, we will create a win‐win‐win situation for the growers, personnel and H‐Fruit alike.”
In operational terms, nothing is expected to change for either Veiling Haspengouw or H‐Fruit. The latter will continue to serve existing customers, but will look to develop new business via Univeg.
Univeg chairman Hein Deprez said the co-operation was in line with two of his company’s founding principles: the creation and organisation of an integrated supply chain that links supply to demand; and the combination of different product flows through efficient, customer-friendly platforms.
“As a worldwide supplier, and service and distribution company, Univeg is a key player in imports from Europe and overseas,” said Francis Kint, chief executive of Univeg. “Today, our main target is to put our competences at the service of the local produce, both in the domestic and export markets.”
He added: “A close co-operation with a producer organisation is innovative, but also makes good sense. Taking this step forward with Veiling Haspengouw is the culmination of many years of collaboration.”
Piet Vanthemsche, chairman of Boerenbond, said his group welcomed the opportunity to support a deal with the potential to strengthen Belgian production, make it more market‐driven and open up new opportunities.
He also said the platform would be open to other producer organisations.
Meanwhile, Veiling Haspengouw chief executive Marijke Vanderstukken said the proposed deal was part of a larger strategic reorientation taking place at the auction.
“This reorientation consists of three pillars: a more efficient operation, an improved service and a reinforcement of [its] commercial power. It provides a positive response to the changing market conditions and prepares growers and personnel for the future.”