Associate partner VBT (Association of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives) is an umbrella and forum organisation for the horticultural sector in Belgium. Via its members, the organisation attends to more than 80 per cent of the Belgian fruit and vegetable producers. General secretary Luc Vanoirbeek elaborates on the position of VBT in the horticulture sector and the role of VBT in the QCAP project.
What does the VBT do for Belgian horticulture?
“First and foremost, we collect and distribute sector-specific data to inform our members about the recent trends in the field. For instance, we map the development of the price and volume per species. We also provide a common direction: we research potential markets, organise practical matters, and ensure that the quality requirements are included in the central guidelines. These guidelines are aligned with our neighbouring countries as much as possible. Our third important task is defending the interests of our members in Belgian and European politics.”
What are your most important areas focus areas at the moment?
“Currently, we are conducting market research in Mexico. We’ve recently set up new markets in Vietnam, China and India, among others. Another focus area is the coordination of our quality specifications, which contain agreements on the implementation of national or European policy, with international equivalents such as Globalgap and Q-S. In doing so, we can jointly safeguard the European quality requirements. We are also working on our campaign ‘Responsibly Fresh’, aimed at promoting sustainable entrepreneurship. Producers increasingly focus on sustainable cultivation techniques and applying new technology. A great example of this development is the QCAP monitoring system.”
How did you get involved in QCAP?
“We got involved via VCBT (Flanders Centre of Postharvest Technology), a collaboration between the VBT and University of Leuven. VCBT has a unique research infrastructure for storage in a controlled atmosphere and an elaborate lab containing advanced measuring equipment for every kind of quality aspect of fruits and vegetables. VCBT is a partner of the QCAP project and conducts research, thereby VBT has become associate partner.”
How important is monitoring of product quality to your members?
“Product quality is an important cornerstone of the horticultural sector. Our field is highly competitive. Only by offering consistently high quality, we can stand out. An advanced monitoring system really makes a big difference in doing so. Additionally, it helps us reduce our losses, which contributes to our sustainability objective and the price/quality ratio of the products.”