Bel’export is a family entity based in Borgloon (Belgium) which focuses on cultivating, harvesting, sorting, storing, packaging and transporting fruits and vegetables.
Recently, Fructidor communicated with Tony Derwael, General Director, who kindly shared the story of the successful family business and his views of its future.
Fructidor: “Mr. Derwael, how and when Bel’export was created? What is the history of the company?”
Tony Derwael: “I am the third generation in the company. My grandfather founded it 100 years ago. By that time the company was very small, we didn’t own anything, we had to rent the land, the orchards. Afterwards, in 1967, we planted our first own orchards. This is how we became growers. Then my uncle and my father continued the business until 1991, and then the third generation took over. In 1994, we started Belexport, the export division of the fruit growing department. Today we sell up to 10 times more than we grow, by dealing with other growers.”.
Fructidor: “What will you be aiming for in the coming years? Do you plan to enter any new markets?
Tony Derwael: “In Europe people are talking about “From farm to Fork”, they try to buy more local produce – the closer the better. In the other continents, for example, in China or India – it’s the opposite. They prefer to buy from Europe, to be sure what they eat. It’s strange but it is what it is. It means we still have possibilities to export, and we need to build good international relationships. […] In the near future Bel’ Export plans to start exporting fruit from South Africa, where we already have contacts with producers with huge production areas.”
Fructidor: “Will you produce any new varieties?”
Tony Derwael: “We have presented new pear varieties. The most important variety we grow is the Conference pear. And this pear constitutes 50 percent of total production in Europe, which means 90% for us. I think we need diversification, we cannot eat the same bread or meat everyday. And the same with pears, when we have 20 different varieties to offer, why do we grow only Conference? We’ll plant orchards with new varieties. For example, with our colleague in South Africa we found a red pear and we will try to plant it in Belgium in October-November.”
Fructidor: “Do you have any new types of packaging to offer?”
Tony Derwael: “Packaging is becoming very expensive: cartons, wood, they went up 40 to 50%. So, in the next 20 years, we’ll use reusable plastic boxes like Europool and Ifco, because the rest is very expensive.”.