The story of Gerbert van Egmond
“With Caribbean we want to offer retailers the same quality and flavour all year round”
According to Levarht, an import and export company based in the Dutch village of De Kwakel, supply chain collaboration is essential for long-term growth. That’s why the company maintains short lines of communication with growers, Rijk Zwaan and retailers. Its aim is to provide retailers with a year-round supply of consistently high-quality products, such as Caribbean melons. For customers in the Middle East, some of those melons come from Honduras and some from Brazil, and now – since the start of a pilot project last year – from Turkey too. Gerbert van Egmond, buying manager at Levarht, explains the importance of this pilot.
“Since 1933 our company has grown into a global player in fruit and vegetables, with a strong market position in the Middle East. We have a clear focus: we work with preferred partners and buy direct from the source as much as possible. We’re extremely transparent about that. We list all our growers on our website, for example, and they often join us at meetings with our end customers. We work on joint projects together with Rijk Zwaan, which is a company that encourages the same kind of openness. We regularly suggest to supermarket buyers that they should visit the Rijk Zwaan trial station to get some new ideas.”
Caribbean melons from three different countries
“One of our joint projects is to achieve year-round availability of high-quality Cantaloupe melons from the Caribbean range, because retailers in the Middle East want to offer their consumers the same melons throughout the entire year. Our grower in Honduras supplies the Caribbean Gold RZ variety from January until mid-May and our grower in Brazil supplies the same variety from late August until January, but we weren’t able to supply from late May until September. I mentioned this to Rijk Zwaan, and then last year, in close consultation, we started a pilot project with a Turkish grower to trial the Caribbean King RZ variety. Turkey has the ideal climate for melon production and also has a favourable position geographically with respect to the Middle East.”
“This pilot project was necessary to build knowledge about production techniques, the right time to harvest, the post-harvest handling and the logistics. It’s not all plain sailing, and it takes time and money. Rijk Zwaan is supporting the grower in acquiring the knowledge. Last year they visited José Lopez – grower of Caribbean melons in Honduras – together, and the Turkish grower also visited our retail customer in the Middle East to see how the melons are displayed in stores. All the activities are focused on being able to supply Caribbean melons with the same quality and flavour all year round, because if consumers know they can depend on that, they will buy the product more often – and that’s good for all the chain partners: Rijk Zwaan, the growers, us and the retailer. If this goes well, we expect to be able to offer a year-round supply of Caribbean to other sales markets in the future too.”