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January 27, 2023

Belgian farmers discover Romania

In recent years, a number of Belgian farmers have found their way to Romania.  They were convinced to settle on both sides of the Carpathian ridge because of the good opportunities for investment in agriculture production. Fertile soil and availability of land had encouraged them to seek for the best possible facilities in different areas. They have the ambition to reach a qualitatively high production, contributing in this way for Romania to achieve in the coming years a growing  import substitution. They work together with local authorities, support farming associations and care for rural development and creative business related opportunities such as agrotourism. In the judets of Ramnicu Valcea, Arad, Alba Iulia, Timis, Caran Sebes and Constanta, Belgian agricultural investments have already been succesfully implemented. In particular, fruit growing activities have met succesful results in sole initiatives or in joint venture with Romanian agricultural business men. Apples and pears in the orchard, or strawberries and other small fruit on the slopes could provide enough quantity and quality in order to convince Romanian retailers to buy Romanian apples. In the distribution sector, Mega Image has with its quality local brand Gusturi Romanesti increased its purchasing activities on Romanian fruits and vegetables. Gusturi Romanesti guarantees the consumer quality at a good price, made in Romania.
Apfelhaus is one of the newly established agricultural actors in Romania, seeking in the neighbourhood of Arad for the best possible activities in fruit and tourism.
There once were two friends, Achiel Ryckaert and Filiep Callewaert, who purchased a land together, located at 5 km from Arad, sometime in 2002. They started weaving a story together, story which led them to build what we now know as „APFEL HAUS”.
The beginnings were rough, the concept has been doubted many times, as it was combining elements from two totally different environments (fruit growing and touristic services). Thus, their dream was to create a space for relaxation, without excluding the economic dimension of what a business in fruit growing and tourism entails.
Why tourism? Because the city of Arad is located on the border with Hungary. The business plan included all services and aspects fitted for a 3 stars location, and when the opportunity of European co-financing presented itself, works were started. In 2008, when the bed and breakfast opened for guests, mr. Ryckaert decided there was a need for someone trustwhorthy who would deal with the management and marketing aspects and who could handle the whole business succesfully. That is how I, Bujdei Andreea, started my activity in 2008 at the Apfel Haus Bed and Breakfast, providing this business with all the knowledge I gathered in this field and the enthousiasm typical for those who believe in working through their own strenghts. Starting with 2008 up until now, the bed and breakfast is functioning succesfully and developments are being made each year, in order to better respond to the changing guests’ needs.
Why fruit growing? Because back home, in Belgium, the two friends have extended orchards that have been developped since generations. From these orchards they export fruits and also vegetables to the whole Europe, including Romania. As the distance between Belgium and Romania is quite long, the long-term optimisation of sales in Eastern Europe has led them to set up a new orchard in Romania. This project also benefits from European co-funding, the apple orchard spreading on a 3,25 ha surface (gala, jonagold and golden) and the strawberries spreading on a 1 ha surface, both in hyper-intensive system (aprox 6500 trees/ha and 40.000 strawberries/ha)
How did we combine the two concepts?
The two projects are placed one in extension of the other, so we can offer our guests the possibility to pluck their own treats.
We organise field trips with elementary school children to show them the different stages of evolution of the apple, from a simple flower to the healthy, fragrant fruit.
For breakfast, our guests are being spoiled with strawberries and apple jam, with vegetables from our small garden and with the ever-present apple juice.
For 2015, our main challange is the entry on the tourism agencies market, so that we will offer a complete package as well to our Romanian guests, as to those visiting Romania for the firts time and who need guidance, transport and accomodation in other regions of the country.

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