Lake Constance region

Germany: Significant losses for fruit farmers, despite raised apple prices

Fruit farmers are expecting losses despite an increase in apple prices. Soon, consumers will probably have to pay more for their apples. But will this increase be sufficient to compensate the farmers for all their frost and hail damage?

“All over Europe there is a significantly smaller harvest, while many countries struggled with frost,” said Jürgen Nüssle of the marketing company Obst vom Bodensee, which translates as 'Fruit from Lake Constance'. “This increases the price, but it is by no means enough to compensate for all the damage."

The main share of the Lake Constance apple harvest is sold to the wholesalers and supermarkets, continued Nüssle. And customers have to pay, instead of 1.99 Euros, about 2.99 Euros per kilo apples. How much goes to the farmer is difficult to say, it depends on the variety, but it's less than 50%.

The late frost, in the middle of the flowering period in April, spoiled the harvest for many apple growers in the southwest of Germany. The center of expertise for fruit farming in the Lake Constance region (KOB) estimated a decrease of 63% from the start of the harvest. And only 86,000 metric tons were harvested instead of the 231,300 metric tons. In the meantime Jürgen Nüssle considers an even higher loss: “Some of the apples only looked good on the outside, I expect a loss of 75%.” Lake Constance is, together with the Altes Land region in Hamburg and Lower Saxony, the most important apple growing area in Germany. 

Frost and hail have not just caused destruction in this region, but all over Europe. According to the Regional Development Agency for Agriculture and Rural Areas (LEL) with 9.3 million metric tons it is the smallest apple harvest in Europe in 10 years. And the German harvest is the smallest since the German reunification, with 555,000 metric tons (-46% compared to the previous year). 

Some regions, such as Niederelbe, could minimize the losses with frost protection irrigation installations, by an estimated 35%. They managed to get off lightly, said Dennis Hezel, the LEL expert. On the other hand, in Baden-Württemberg two-thirds of the average harvest was destroyed. A share of the damage that cannot be insured will be compensated by the federal state of Baden-Württemberg.

Furthermore, LEL estimates that Baden-Württemberg will have to import apples in spring due to the poor harvest. However, varieties such as Elstar and Gala have to be sold ultimately in April or May, so Lake Constance will have little more stock to sell. This region usually has a self-sufficiency rate of 150%, continued Hezel. In other words, with an annual average consumption of 150,000 metric tons of dessert apples, a deficit of 50,000 metric tons has to be compensated or replaced with other fruit varieties.

Source: Proplanta

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