Mehmet Baran is the owner of Mehmet Groenten en Fruit in Schiebroek where he sells fruits, vegetables, salads, and dried goods. Every morning, his alarm goes off at 4:30, he then goes to a distribution center where farmers sell their goods. These fruits and vegetables are not going to end up in the supermarket because the supermarkets offer the lowest price possible. And some farmers do not accept that and try to sell it on this “auction”. Some of the products on the auction might also be too big, too small or misshaped therefore the supermarkets do not accept them.
I visit his shop for years now, every week for my fruits and vegetables. He has great connections with his customers, he talks with everyone and he is the most friendly shop owner of the neighborhood. Mehmet knows almost everyone by name and offers a cup of homemade herb tea on rainy days.
If there is something wrong with the product that you purchased from him, he will offer you an alternative for free. He presented his views on food waste and hoarding during the lockdown in an interview with Dora.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mehmet Baran, I am the owner of Mehmet Groenten en Fruit in Schiebroek where I sell fruits, vegetables, salads, and dry goods.
Where do your goods come from?
I buy most of my fruits and vegetables from farmers directly. I also regularly visit the fruit and vegetable auction in the mornings before coming to the shop and I pick the amount and quality I find fitting for my customers.
Do you think it is unfair how supermarkets pay the lowest price?
Yes, but they argue that they have a lot of employees, higher rent prices, and a ton of logistics that they have to pay. In that sense it is not unfair for them but still is for the farmers who work just as hard for their produce.
What is your opinion on the current situation around COVID-19 and the fact that people started hoarding a few weeks ago?
It was a reaction to being afraid in my opinion. There was also a peak in sales after the first press conference [regarding COVID-19 – ed.] at the beginning of March. Supermarkets were empty and new people came to the shop who I have never seen here before. Also, the people who visit the market on Fridays come to me now because the markets are cancelled. In my religion when there is less food we do fasting. We eat less and value the food we have on the table. If there is freshwater and a few vegetables, everything should be fine. (laughs)
How do you feel when after hoarding some of the produce you sell is thrown away?
That is painful. The value of food is a bit lost in today’s society. An orange, for example, has been growing for months on a tree, farmers have been taking care of those trees and when they are ripe enough, the oranges are being exported to The Netherlands. That is why I tell my customers to keep their food cold, except for a few products such as potatoes, tomatoes, or eggplant. I try and share tips with them so that they enjoy these fruits and vegetables for as long as possible.
There are also so many people still dying because of food shortages all over the world. And it feels very unfair and painful when we throw away food that could be given to someone in need.
What would you recommend to prevent food waste?
First of all creating awareness about this issue has to be done. In The Netherlands, people are used to paying so little for their food. If a cucumber is 0,50 euro cents and you throw away half of it, you only wasted 0,25 euro cents. But if the same cucumber would be 3 euros, you would think twice before wasting it. These low prices are also a reason why people do not value their food. If everyone had to grow their own vegetables no waste would be created because of all the work that goes into it.
Second of all, we need a different kind of upbringing for children. My children and I always have to eat everything on our board. If there are leftovers I eat them for lunch or dinner the next day. But it has to be taught at schools and other people should be a bit shaken awake by the fact that too much food is wasted.
I also bring vegetables and fruit home from the shop, but I select the ones that are a bit damaged or a bit older. They are perfectly fine to cook with and taste just as good as the “perfect” ones. That is also an issue that people find damaged food ugly and disgusting whereas the inside tastes just as good.
And at last, what is your favourite fruit and vegetable?
My favourite fruit is peach and my favourite vegetable is beans. (laughs)
You can learn more about Mehmet Baran and his business by watching an interview with him (available only in Dutch): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OAC4DwD7r4