The Belgian exporter is intent on boosting its range of products and growing in new markets including the UK, which experienced shortages last year

Belgian exporter Demargro has its sights set on the UK, as it aims to grow its exports to nearby markets as it approaches its 50th year of business.

“Next year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this family-run business,” said the company’s Dominiek Keersebilck. “90 per cent of our turnover currently comes from just five products, so we are looking at both new products and new markets for the future.”

The company’s main products are strawberries, tomatoes, leeks, pears and peppers, which the company exports to France, Spain, Poland and Scandinavia.


“Strategically, we decided we had to work on the UK,” revealed Keersebilck. “We expect that the UK will have to import a bit more in the coming years due to Brexit. There is domestic production, of course, but labour is an issue, and everyone remembers the image of empty shelves from last year.”

Demargro has its own transport company, Argrotrans, with 15 refrigerated trailers, increasing its flexibility on shipments. “This is a big advantage for the UK,” said Keersebilck, “allowing us to speed up deliveries. We’re very close to Calais. In an hour and a half, we can be there, and then to Dover it’s another hour and a half. There is a lot of competition, but we want to invest in this market. We are open to cooperation with packers, including the supermarkets. In addition to London, there may also be opportunities to send to Manchester and Birmingham.”

Loose vine tomatoes make up around three-quarters of Demargro’s tomato offering, but specialties are on the rise, according to Keersebilck.

“We have some varieties like Ruby Red that are in high demand,” he said. “Large coeur de boeuf tomatoes also. And we are starting up some specialities like cocktail tomatoes on the vine that have big opportunities on the UK market. There is a high-end consumer in the UK that is looking for alternatives to bulk products. We also have close contact with growers in France and the Netherlands, so we can offer whatever people in the UK want.”

Keersebilck said this could include less-known items like celeriac, as well as forgotten vegetables that are presently experiencing something of a revival.

This is an extract from an interview in the upcoming Fresh Focus Tomato special, produced ahead of the Global Tomato Congress, which takes place on 14-15 May at the Fokker Terminal, The Hague