In 2018, Colruyt Group purchased ‘Het Zilverleen’ organic farm with 25 hectares of agricultural land. Through the takeover Colruyt Group wishes to guarantee local supply of organic vegetables for its supermarkets. The farm supplies the organic harvest directly and exclusively to the supermarket chain. This not only allows demand-based cultivation, depending on the specific needs of Colruyt and Bio-Planet customers, but also demand-driven cultivation: a broader range of organic vegetables encourages consumers to eat more seasonal produce. Therefore, Colruyt Group is focusing on making its supply chain more sustainable. By purchasing the organic farm, which already sold 70% of its produce to Colruyt Group before the takeover, the latter is able to ensure the farm continues to be managed organically. Meanwhile, a new organic farmer has started work at Het Zilverleen. He is leasing the agricultural land and the farm from Colruyt. In exchange for surrendering a certain degree of autonomy – after all, the Zilverleen farmer is dependent on the prices set by Colruyt Group – he can count on a guaranteed buyer. The farmer and Colruyt Group jointly determine the cultivation plan.
Colruyt Group’s purchase of Het Zilverleen makes it the first retailer in Belgium to own land to guarantee its supply. After the frozen food industry and the meat and dairy sector, the retail sector is clearly striving for greater integration in the chain, a trend that was also adopted by Carrefour in France. Retailers can play a key role in the transition to more organic farming despite the fact that the further erosion of the farmer’s autonomy makes the debate extremely sensitive.
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photo: Vilt, Alveringem 2019