Germany approves €200 billion package to stem energy price hikes

European vegetable growers warn of energy shortages as energy crisis deepens



By Ardi Napolitano and Sibel de la Hamid

BOVEN, France (Reuters) – Emmanuel Lefevre produces thousands of tons of dandelions on his northern French farm annually, but this year he may give up his crop due to the crippling energy costs needed to freeze the harvested bulbs.

Across northern and western Europe, vegetable producers are considering halting their activities due to the financial hit from Europe’s energy crisis, further threatening food supplies.

Extremely high energy and gas prices will affect crops grown during the winter in heated greenhouses such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, and those that need to be placed in cold storage, such as apples, onions and endive.

Dandelions are especially energy-hungry. After the bulbs are harvested in the fall, they are stored below freezing and later replanted in temperature-controlled containers to allow year-round production.

“We’re really wondering if we’re going to harvest what’s in the fields this winter,” Lefebvre told Reuters at the site where the dandelions are packed.

European farmers are warning of a shortage. The expected hit to production and jump in prices means supermarkets may switch to getting more goods from warmer countries like Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.

Farmers said rising gas prices are the biggest cost to greenhouse vegetable growers. Meanwhile, two French farmers who are renewing their electricity contracts for 2023 said their prices are more than 10 times those of 2021.

“In the coming weeks I will plan for the season, but I don’t know what to do,” said Benjamin Simonnot de Vos, who grows cucumbers, tomatoes and strawberries south of Paris.

“If it stays that way, there’s no point in starting another year. It’s not sustainable.”

READ ALSO :   Germany approves €200 billion package to stem energy price hikes

heading south

Farmers are not only dealing with rising energy prices. The cost of fertilizer, packaging and transportation are all on the rise and threatening profit margins.

β€œWe are experiencing a total production cost increase of about 30 percent,” said Johannes Gross, deputy director of sales for the German cooperative Reichenau-GemΓΌse whose greenhouses cover about 60 hectares. Energy accounts for between half and two-thirds of these additional costs, he said.

“Some colleagues are considering leaving their greenhouses empty to keep costs as low as possible. Nobody knows what will happen next year,” he added.

Greenhouse industry group Glastuinbouw Nederland says up to 40% of its 3,000 members are in cash.

Even in sunnier countries like Spain, fruit and vegetable growers struggle to increase fertilizer costs by 25%.

It is imperative that fruit and vegetable production shift to a warmer climate, said Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Farmers’ Federation.

“We will move production further and further south, through Spain, to Morocco and parts of Africa,” Ward said.

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