The chicory sector: growing in line with the market
In order to get the chicory sector back out of the doldrums, the focus needs to be on quality and on production tailored to the market. Such was the message from the Inagro information centre to the chicory growers during the Chicory Event, organised by the research and information centre. “There needs to be a product that satisfies the consumer's wishes if they are to be tempted into stores to buy chicory”, ran the message. “After all, confidence in the freshness, quality and provenance of the product is an important driver behind purchasing.” Inagro wants to play its part in this story via research and information devoted to improved quality and better grower awareness. Producers need to think more about the versatility of their products and matching it to consumers' needs. The Chicory Event was staged with the support of REO Auction.

EC releases 150 million euro for fruit in schools
The EU's agriculture ministers have approved a proposal from the European Commission for a new combined programme of 250 million euro for milk and fruit in schools, with 150 million being earmarked for fruit and vegetables. There will also be subsidies for educational activities, including farm visits.
The new programme starts on 1 August 2017. Priority is being given to the distribution of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk to school children. There will be a major focus on educational measures to make children aware of healthy eating habits, as well as sustainability, the environment and food waste.
Source: European Commission/NOS.

Fruit and vegetable sector prospecting in Bulgaria
The Balkan region was until recently one of the few remaining prospecting markets within Europe. At the end of March, VLAM set off with 5 Belgian exporters and 3 auctions on a three-day visit to the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. The schedule included meetings with the major importers and shop chains, visits to stores and a tour of the biggest early-morning market, Slatina. The objective was to get more Belgian products on to the shelves in Bulgaria. There is still a market for Belgian fruit, as can be seen from the fact that in 2015, as much as 40,000 tonnes of apples were imported. There are still openings for summer vegetables, such as cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Bulgarian domestic production is heavily seasonal, and this means that the country is dependent on imports for out of season produce. Typical winter vegetables also score well in Bulgaria, with imports of 17,000 tonnes of cabbages and 15,000 tonnes of carrots and turnips.
Naturally, there was also a reception at the Belgian embassy. This provided the Belgian delegation with the opportunity to forge some contacts with Belgians who are already active in the Bulgarian food sector. There was also room for individual trade discussions. One positive discovery during the store visits was that the Kumato tomatoes from Hoogstraten Auction were available in various stores. The verdict from the participants was that this was a packed and successful mission.

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