The strawberry market is currently characterized by imports from numerous countries. Despite the energy crisis, in a few cases there is trading in natural resources from Dutch and Belgian horticulture. Meanwhile, the first early varieties from Portugal and Spain are now coming onto the market. “The range is completed with Moroccan batches, which have a good price-quality ratio, and with strawberries flown in from Egypt,” says Jonás Cano, product specialist at PPO Services in Switzerland. After his presentation at this year’s soft fruit seminar, Jonás gave an insight into the current Swiss soft fruit market.

The overall soft fruit market is characterized by a good and stable supply situation. “In the period before Christmas, the demand for all types of soft fruits increases significantly. With the strawberries, the first Portuguese and Spanish early varieties do very well in terms of Brix content and ripeness. For the raspberries, we can fall back on the supply from Spain for 80-90 percent. We have also had a good supplier of blackberries in Spain for several years, which is exclusively dedicated to BlackBerry cultivation. This allows us to fall back on Spain from September, after the end of the Swiss season, until the next harvest. Because of this, we do not need blackberries from Mexico. We have a similar partnership with a red currant grower in the Netherlands.”

In the case of blueberries, products from overseas are now traded diligently in winter. Jonás: “we are now just before the seasonal transition from Peru to Chile, then it continues with Morocco. From January, the first cargoes will arrive from Spain.”The blueberries are a strong promotional product.

“We have had regular actions in retail since September, which benefits the continuity of the sales volume.”

Founded in 1946, PPO Services focuses on the import of fruit and vegetables from all over the world for the Swiss and European market. “In the 70s and 80s, strawberries were mainly imported from Spain and Italy. Imports were limited to two or three different varieties, Douglas and Chandler, one or two pack sizes, 250 and 500 gram bowls, and the import season lasted at most three or four months. Over the past 10-15 years, soft fruit cultivation has developed very rapidly, new technologies have made it possible to diversify its cultivation.”

The range of the PPO group has therefore been significantly expanded. “Today, our range includes up to 75 different products throughout the year, depending on the season and domestic cultivation quantity. The main assortment still consists of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and the popular soft fruit mix, and on a smaller scale blackberries and red currants. However, fresh goji berries and honey berries never broke through. In 2022, the PPO group has so far imported soft fruit from a total of 29 different countries.”

Long-term growth expected for organic soft fruit

The sale of organic products is handled by an independent department within the PPO group. The proportion of organic soft fruit is around 10 percent. Jonás: “given the somewhat uncertain market situation, we do not expect an increase in sales in the coming months. In the medium and long term, however, we are convinced that sales figures will continue to grow.”In this context, the fruit trader also points to the increased quality requirements of soft fruit. “In terms of sustainability, the sector faces extremely major challenges: for the Swiss Market, soft fruit is imported from growers who use available water sources sustainably and who have a Spring or Rainforest certificate.”

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