Small volumes of uniquely European offerings aren’t always conducive to growing market share in Asian nations.
However, a growing presence of Western expats in Asia is providing leading Belgian co-operative BelOrta with an avenue into its newest frontier.
“Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore; these are big, worldly cities with large expat populations that like to have good products,” BelOrta’s commercial director Jo Lambrecht said. “They’re a good consumer base to help open up markets and get things moving.”
BelOrta’s trade into Asia has focused largely on Belgian endives and leeks to date, with encouraging levels of demand being generated in Japan and South Korea.
The co-operative auctioneer has also supplied small volumes of Conference pears to China over recent seasons. In several Asian countries Lambrecht sees potential for both Conference pears and for a number of apple varieties exclusive to Belgium.
“The ideal soil composition and excellent climatic conditions in Belgium enable us to grow an apple that is perfect for most Asian markets,” he says.
Besides that, Belgium also has value in servicing pockets of very particular demand. “Each country [in Asia] presents a possible opportunity, with their needs varying,” Lambrecht said. “For us it's not always about big volumes, niches are important too. With those we’re targeting some more exclusive openings."
Asia’s potential is already encouraging the Belgian industry to develop and cultivate varieties suited to the local palate.
“Particular lines of vegetables are being 100 per cent grown for these markets, according to their demands,” Lambrecht said. ”They are specifically Belgian varieties so it offers a point of difference.”