Belgian Fruit Valley’s Conference pears, sold under the increasingly recognised Truval brand, are growing in popularity in the Chinese market
Despite predictions that EU pear volumes will be down around 13 per cent this campaign, Conference pear production was forecast at August’s Prognosfruit meeting to grow by 8 per cent. And as Storm Daniel battered large parts of southern Europe, conditions in Belgium remained okay.
“We had enough rain, a cold spring but with no frost or hail,” says Marc Evrard of Belgian Fruit Valley. “It meant that the flowering started a bit later, then we had some sunshine, but not too much.”
May and June were dry in Belgium, but previous rain meant pear tree roots had access to plenty of water. Then finally, during the main summer period, it rained abundantly, but not to the detriment of quality.
“The fruit looks good, with nice russetting, a nice size and a good Brix,” says Evrard. “And there’s good demand worldwide. Of course we have seen some challenges weather-wise in northern Europe.”
Because of the warmer weather of the last few summers, the picking period in Belgium has started earlier in recent years, according to Evrard, closer to mid-August.
But the challenges are much more extreme in southern Europe. “They’re seeing extremes every year,” says Evrard. “So if it’s dry, it’s extreme drought for a longer period. If it’s rain, everything starts flooding. If it’s hot, it’s not 28°C, but it’s 45°C. It’s all very extreme.”
Belgian Fruit Valley’s apples are awaiting approval of market access for China. In the meantime, its Conference pears, sold under the increasingly recognised Truval brand, are growing in popularity in China.
In Asia, China is the main market for Belgian Conference pears. This autumn, Flanders Agricultural Marketing Board (VLAM) launched the ‘Taste of Europe China’ campaign in the country.
“This point-of-sale campaign is a powerful tool to promote Belgian Conference pears in Chinese retail, both physically and digitally,” says VLAM’s Hartwig Moyaert. “By combining in-store tastings and displays, digital platforms and influencer collaborations, retailers can captivate consumers, generate product awareness, and increase sales. By leveraging the power of both offline and online channels, retailers can charm shoppers and create a buzz around these delectable fruits.”
“Now everybody who is looking for Conference pears in China basically wants Truval,” says Evrard.
Belgian Fruit Valley also sends smaller volumes to Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam. Outside of China, the company’s Thomas Simillion sees Vietnam as a key market for the future. “Probably not only for us,” he clarifies. “It is really becoming more significant day by day, especially since Covid. So I think that’s a place we all have our eyes on.”