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Chinese growers fear frost damage

Good prices red cabbage in Europe

Cabbage is a product that offers stability, with very little price variations. At this time, red cabbage is yielding good prices in Europe due to a reduced harvest last year. The market for white cabbage is stable. Spanish cabbage growers are having a "dramatic" season. In Belgium, demand for cabbage is on the rise. Cabbage giant Russia, despite its large production, has been unable to meet all demand and has had to import from Serbia, Macedonia and Iran. In the US, prices are growing ahead of St. Patrick's Day. Chinese producers are holding their breath. They are concerned about the frost of recent months having damaged the harvest. The extent of this damage is still unknown.

St. Patrick's Day boosts demand in the United States
With St. Patrick's Day approaching (17 March) the demand for cabbage in the United States is on the rise. This increasing demand results also in higher prices. Supermarkets account for a large share of the volumes, thus resulting in an increase in prices on the free market. For green cabbage, the price this week stood above $ 12 per box, after a stable period, when it had ranged between 8 and $ 10. According to one dealer, prices could rise even further. The prices for cabbage from Mexico at the border in California and Arizona stood between 10 and 13 dollars. For red cabbage, the price oscillated between $ 11.45 and $ 18.45.
Although cabbage was a cheap product, it is now yielding good prices, partly because there are fewer producers and thus the supply is smaller.



Netherlands good value red cabbage
Although the cabbage harvest begins in August, the peak for traders is recorded in the first months of the New Year. Most of the cabbage production concentrates in the province of North Holland, the vegetable growing area par excellence. Cabbage is available all year round. The new harvest hits the market in August, by which times the old stock is usually as good as sold. The Dutch production in 2015 was better than expected. After a dry summer, the prospects were not too good, but the season was still good thanks to a favourable autumn.

Between March and June, there is plenty of demand from Eastern Europe, since by that time they have a shortage of local produce. Dutch cabbage has a good shelf life. Given that cabbage is a product of choice for exports, prices are greatly influenced by the harvests in other countries. Red and white cabbage shipments go mostly to countries in Eastern Europe, Israel, Dubai, Malaysia and Cuba, while Asia and the United States are growing markets. In terms of prices, the market has remained stable for weeks. The price of Danish (white) cabbage stands at around 20 cents. Red cabbage, which costs 50 cents, is actually rather expensive.

Belgian supermarkets demand smaller cabbages
The demand from supermarkets for cabbages under category 7 (1.8 kg - 2.2 kg each) and 8 (1.3 kg 1.8 kg each) has increased in recent years. While 500,000 pieces of these cabbages were sold by major traders to supermarkets in 2008, this year the total figure has reached 2.5 million pieces (1.6 million white and 900,000 red). In recent years, sales have also gradually shifted towards the processing sector, which demands more and more cabbage. Also noticeable is the fact that the production has been moving to France. Last year, it was 8 hectares; this year, the acreage has doubled and prospects point to 25 hectares of French cabbage.

High prices British red cabbage market
The UK's cabbage production is stable. The acreage hardly changes and most of the harvest is under contract for supermarkets and the processing sector. The season for white and red cabbage runs from July to November; during the rest of the year, there is a supply of stored cabbage. Even though growers were expecting a smaller harvest because of the dry and cool spring of 2015, the volume was eventually normal. This was due to the warmer November and December. There was a normal volume of white cabbage, while red cabbage recorded a 30 percent decline. "This has resulted in high prices across Europe," says a trader. The British don't export a lot of cabbage, partly because most of the production is under contracts. Before Christmas, surplus cabbage was traded across the border. This surplus could not be stored. This summer, if demand for cabbage increases and more coleslaw is consumed, the market situation should be positive.

Cabbage niche product in Italy
The market share of cabbage in Italy is small; broccoli and cauliflower are very popular, but other varieties, such as savoy cabbage, are considered niche products. This season is bad for cabbage. The warm winter accelerated the growth process by 30 days and the Italian consumption is lagging behind. Cabbage is grown in almost all regions of the country, but concentrates in central and southern Italy. The main growing areas are Apulia, Campania, Lazio, Calabria, Sicily and Veneto. Savoy cabbage is sold mainly in the north of the country. Furthermore, exports are made to Austria and Turkey has also shown interest. The savoy cabbage which is grown in Basilicata is intended for the German market. Prices on wholesale markets vary. In Turin, Italian white cabbage costs 27 cents (6 pcs, 30x50) and the Italian savoy stands at 15 cents (6 pcs, 30x50). In Verona, locally grown cabbage yields 25 cents per kilo. Dutch red cabbage costs 65 cents per kilo. For the savoy, the price ranges between 20 and 50 cents.

France demands smaller calibres
The French regions of Rhône-Alpes, Sud-Ouest Roussillon and Brittany are currently supplying many cabbage varieties to the market, including red, white and green cabbage. Prices vary between 50 and 90 cents per piece. The French market increasingly demands smaller calibres, partly due to the smaller households.

Spanish pointed cabbage cultivation under pressure
The situation in the current cabbage season is "dramatic," according to the Spanish sector. This is especially the case for pointed cabbage, the most widely grown in Spain, which is yielding low prices. Growers were forced to withdraw some of the production from the market. The mild autumn and winter have resulted in a surplus. The production was higher and consumption has been under pressure. Moreover, the large stocks in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom thwarted the market. Demand from these countries has been slightly increasing and the supply was reduced by the lower temperatures in Spain.
The Netherlands and the UK are the main markets for Spanish cabbage. These countries, however, extend their season thanks to their good storage facilities. Since the Spanish export season was shortened by these developments, the acreage is no longer expanding. If no new destinations are found, the acreage may actually be reduced. Cabbage cultivation accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of Murcia's leafy vegetable production.

Shortages on Polish market
Polish traders expect to start harvesting in April, with no major changes foreseen in either acreage or volume. Due to shortages on the Polish market, prices have increased. Cabbage yields an average of 1.30 zloty (0.30 Euro) per kilo. For red cabbage, the price fluctuates between 1.50 and 1.90 zloty (0.34 to 0.43 Euro). The price for red cabbage is expected to continue rising; its largest supplier is Germany, since there is no domestic production available. Furthermore, imports are made from Belarus, Italy and Macedonia. As regards exports, Russia was always the biggest market, but since the introduction of the boycott, this has changed. Right now, Ukraine and the Czech Republic lead the ranking.

Cabbage giant Russia cannot keep up with demand
Although Russia is the world's largest cabbage producer, the country's demand is so great that it is forced to import also from Macedonia, Iran and Serbia. During the next month, there should still be Russian cabbage available. Before the boycott, a lot of cabbage was imported from the Netherlands and Germany, but since those borders were closed, the flow has shifted to the aforementioned countries. According to a Russian trader, the transition was smooth, with only a price increase as a result. This increase was caused by the payment being made in dollars instead of in Euro.

Israeli cultivation meets domestic demand
The Israeli cabbage market has managed to escape the turmoil affecting some other sectors, partly due to the relatively small demand and the fact that the domestic production is able to meet it. Despite some periods of bad weather, the prices for red, white and green cabbage have remained stable, ranging between 80 cents and 1.50 Euro per kilo in supermarkets. Each year, the country produces around 60,000 tonnes of cabbage, of which the largest part goes to the processing sector. Exports are scarce, amounting to just several hundred tonnes traded during favourable periods. Despite its stable prices, the Israeli government plans to include cabbage in the list of products whose import tariffs can be adjusted to compensate for extreme price increases.

Australian consumers discover cabbage
Figures from the Australian government show that, in the 2013/2014 campaign, the country produced 75,592 tonnes of cabbage worth 57 million dollars. Meanwhile, $ 1.53 million were generated from exports, which went mainly to Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The exact dates when each cabbage variety arrives to the Australian market are not available; however, it appears that consumption is on the rise. A study revealed that consumers buy cabbage 3.5 times per month, which is more than in 2014.

China fears losses due to frost
Chinese cabbage cultivation takes place mostly in the provinces of Hebei, Shandong and Shanxi, and white cabbage is the most popular variety. The country has two harvest periods, one in March and April and the second in October. For the harvest in March, there are fears about the possible damage caused by frosts in December and January, the extent of which has yet to be determined and is difficult to predict. For a product like garlic, for example, which is produced in larger volumes and which has a greater export potential, more data is available. Garlic growers in the Shandong province expect a 30 percent drop in their production volume. Cabbage cultivation in China is fragmented between many small growers, without much planning, so there is little data available. Cabbage is still an important product, but in recent years it has been facing growing competition from greenhouse vegetables.

Mexico small-scale cultivation for US
The North American country is a small player in the cabbage market. Its volumes are very small and the crop is mainly aimed at filling gaps in the US market.


Every week, FreshPlaza and AGF.nl publish an overview of the market situation of a product in a global context. With these articles these articles we aim to provide a view of a global market shrinking due to globalisation. Next time, tomatoes will be in the spotlight.


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