The European cooperatives are aiming for optimal product availability, better value for growers and greater flexibility, with the establishment of a Union of Producer Organisations considered the first step

The boards of Dutch cooperative The Greenery and Belgium’s BelOrta have signed a letter of intent to explore cooperation between the groups through a Union of Producer Organisations (UPO), according to a statement from BelOrta. 

The Belgian cooperative said it was an “important step towards a joint, growth-oriented future”.

BelOrta and The Greenery collaboration

“The aim of this cooperation is to join forces in terms of product range and services in order to strengthen their position in the European market even further,” BelOrta said. “With demand-side consolidation and internationalisation, joining forces on the supply-side is a logical step.”

The first exploratory talks between the companies apparently took place in early 2023. “Both organisations share the same focus: maximum value creation for their growers, now and in the future,” BelOrta said. “After the individual developments of both organisations, they are ready to cooperate. With this planned cooperation, the cooperatives ensure the long-term availability and security of their products while offering their growers access to European markets to achieve the best possible price and maximum value.”

The collaboration is set to offer opportunities for growers of various products, the companies said, including greenhouse vegetables, open field vegetables, apples and pears, and berries, both in Belgium and the Netherlands.

BelOrta said it sees opportunities in sales, purchasing, optimising the logistics network, investing in knowledge building, varietal innovation, sustainability and flexibility to market changes.

“For customers, this joining of forces offers a more diverse supply of a wide range of vegetables and fruit directly from the source, including appropriate services in areas such as quality, logistics, sustainability and category development,” the cooperative stated. “Because of the geographical location, both organisations are a good fit, ensuring product availability under changing weather conditions.”

BelOrta said the intended cooperation was based on mutual trust and a complementary product range, with establishment of a UPO the first step, followed by the “development of the cooperation in a growth trajectory”. 

The objective, it revealed, is to achieve “economies of scale, optimal product availability and value creation for growers as well as flexible positioning in a rapidly changing market”.

David Markowski, chair of The Greenery board, commented: “We believe our organisations and the market are ready and we are energetically looking forward to further developing and organising the cooperation.” 

Marc Smets, chair of BelOrta, added: “This cooperation offers a number of opportunities for growth in cultivation and sales, as well as wider access to European markets while also offering benefits in terms of knowledge sharing and efficiency.”