Winter production has returned following last year’s mass shutdown in the wake of the global energy crisis

The Netherlands will produce as much as five times more strawberries this winter as it did during the same period of last year, according to one of the country’s leading growers.

Jong Fruit, which specialises in year-round supply of strawberries including the export-grade variety Inspire, has apparently witnessed a return to full winter production across the country recently after last season’s sharp increase in energy prices forced several growers to pause their operations.

“This winter, there is lot more production than last year, because last year we had the energy crisis,” confirms Arian de Jong, the company’s co-owner and managing director. “I think now there is as much as five times more production in the winter than last year in Holland.”

As a result, there is currently a surplus of supply on the market, De Jong tells Eurofruit. “Now it’s the price which is a difficult story, because there is too much competition,” he explains. “In weeks four and five there was too much volume. But I think in week six volumes will decrease and the market towards Valentine’s Day will be better. I cannot speak about Europe as a whole, but I think the Netherlands market for strawberries will be better in week six for sure.”

Spanish investment

Last month, Jong Fruit secured outside investment from Spanish group Surexport after De Jong’s brother Rob van der Wouw sold his share of the business.

As a result, the firm now operates as a co-owned venture between De Jong, the Huelva-based company’s owners, and Spanish private equity firm Alantra, while Van der Wouw remains active alongside his borther as a Jong Fruit director.

“This means that we are a stronger company for the future, I think,” De Jong suggests. “We can make more things happen than were possible before. I think we can sell bigger volumes together to the market. We can offer more secure fruit to customers. And when we do not have fruit available from one country, we can deliver from another and give another option.”

De Jong believes growth will be easier to achieve in future with support from Surexport and Alantra. “If we need more volume, we can organise it,” he says. ”We have a vision and we have a plan. And we hope we are going to change something in the market from now on.”

One small but significant change Jong Fruit has made this year is to focus solely on strawberries across all 24ha of its production site.

“In the past, we did blackberries and raspberries. But the turnover last year was the same and the labour costs have risen about 20 per cent in the two years since December 2022. So we cannot do that anymore.”

De Jong adds: “Now we have a different vision. When we cannot produce raspberries and blackberries in the Netherlands, we import them from countries where we can produce. So we can offer the same thing to the customer.”

Pictured above: Winter production of Inspire strawberries under lights (left) and Jong Fruit’s fresh Inspire crop, due for harvesting in week nine (right).