OVERVIEW GLOBAL MARKET CUCUMBERS

In several countries, such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland, the cucumber season will be soon coming to an end. The Netherlands is looking back on a good season. Spain will gradually take over the European markets in the coming months. Growers currently are hopeful after several dramatic seasons. In Italy, the prices are low. Israeli growers have had to compete against imported cucumbers, as the borders have been opened. This resulted in low prices. In Florida, growers are adapting. Mexico is slowly gaining ground on the market, with cheaper cucumbers, and producers are also finding it hard to compete against cucumbers from Honduras. That is why, at this time of the year, they are aiming to fill the gaps in the seasons.

Florida is adapting
At this time of the year, the states of Georgia and Florida are the only ones growing open field cucumbers for the domestic market. The harvest in Florida kicked off ten days ago. The supply from this state is still small, but a greater one is expected in the coming weeks. The season will last until mid-December. In the autumn, production in Florida is traditionally lower because of the great competition from other areas. Growers in the state have to compete against the cucumbers from Mexico and Georgia, which remain productive until mid-November. At the moment, the supply from Georgia is quite large.

Moreover, demand in the autumn is lower than in the spring. By mid-December, cucumbers from Honduras hit the market. That supply is so abundant that a trader from Florida explained that they try to have the campaign already finished by that time. The price is satisfactory and is expected to remain stable in the coming period.



Low prices in Italy
Cucumbers have a permanent place in the market, with production all year round. Sicily is on the market between September and May, while central and northern Italy supply the market from May to October; nevertheless, the consumption of cucumbers in Italy is rather low.

According to the latest available data, the average prices on weeks 40 and 41 remained stable at 18 cents per kilo, which is 41.7 percent lower than in the same period a year earlier. Greenhouse cucumbers generated 50 cents per kilo, down 48.1 percent compared to last year.

The wholesale markets also confirm this picture. In Vittoria, Sicily, the lower limit for the local production is 10 cents, while a year ago that figure reached 20 cents. Better quality cucumbers yield 30 or 40 cents. Baratini cucumbers generate between 20 and 40 cents, while last year the upper limit stood at 60 cents. In Rome and Turin, domestic cucumbers with a length of 14-21 cm are sold for about 70 to 75 cents.

Spain hopeful after dramatic seasons
This month there was some overproduction in Spain, making early cucumbers clash with the Dutch production. Both countries had higher temperatures than average and this has resulted in a greater production. This, in addition to some quality issues, resulted in lower prices. A large part of the production had to be withdrawn from the market, after which prices rose again. The price remained unstable until October. Since last week, prices are again under daily pressure, as the volume available has been increasing. Every week, the volume available grows by 20 to 25 percent.

The last three seasons have been dramatic for cucumber growers. This year, the prospects are better because the acreage has shrunk by 6 percent. Furthermore, the peak in the supply came at the beginning of the season, while in the past, most of the volumes hit the market towards the end of the campaign. During the autumn and winter, Spanish growers face little competition in the market.

The Netherlands: Good money earned again with cucumbers
The Dutch cucumber season is now ending and good money has been earned for the second year in a row. After years of misery in the cucumber market, the Spanish weather and the poor production there caused prices to increase significantly last year. This year, hail damage has been the cause of the higher prices. Until late June, it was just a mediocre season. At that time, 50 hectares of cucumber crops in Brabant and Limburg were destroyed by hail and that entailed a turnaround. While supply actually did not change immediately (the production of the affected companies was already finished due to crop rotation), prices rose due to the panic the circumstances caused in the market. Until last week, prices remained at good levels and have actually only collapsed halfway through last week. Now the foreign supply has started and the last remnants of Dutch product are being harvested.

Having two such good years is exceptional for cucumbers and that has directly resulted in investments in the sector. Because of the dramatic results achieved before 2015, these had ground to a halt. The production, therefore, is expected to increase. In addition to the return to production next year of the companies affected by hail, the acreage will be expanded and there will also be a transition to high-wire cultivation, which ensures a higher yield.

The higher production creates uncertainty in the sector. On the one hand, there is optimism due to the results of the last two years. The contract prices will be slightly higher and that is already taking production away from the free market for next year. Secondly, the causes of the price increases are so clear and identifiable, that there are fears about what will happen if there are no problems such as the Brabant hail or the Spanish heat. There are currently some 600 hectares of cucumbers in the Netherlands and that, according to market experts, is a lot. Especially in spring, when Spain is on the market, the acreage is considerable. Prices then are traditionally poor and growers have been trying to avoid it for years by planting later. A second threat to the Dutch sector is the low rate of the British pound. Especially for the smaller sizes, the 35's, the UK is an important market, but now that the pound has dropped, the price of Dutch cucumbers has become significantly more expensive for the British.

Belgium switches to import
Retailers are gradually switching to Spanish cucumber imports, which are taking shelf space away from Belgian cucumbers. A few weeks ago, the prices were high, making it attractive to import cucumbers. This market trend is observed every year. In general, traders are satisfied with the price, which currently oscillates between 20 and 35 cents.

Poland sees no benefit in year-round cultivation
Wholesalers have started importing Spanish cucumbers. That supply is still small, because there is still plenty of domestic production available. The domestic season usually lasts from late February to late October. An importer tells us that they are currently better off with imported cucumbers, which are cheaper than the Polish production. Moreover, a sufficient volume is available. Such pricing may change, however, as the Polish season finally comes to an end. The production is seasonal, because most growers see no benefit in year-round cultivation. It is possible for a grower to invest in illuminated cultivation, and thus grow all year round, but the motivation to take this step is hampered by the low price of imported cucumbers. Imports come mainly from Spain, but the Netherlands also fills some gaps in the season.

Imports bring prices down in Israel
Up until two months ago, growers were forced to withdraw some production from the market because of the large supply. That image has become a familiar sight in recent years due to the bad situation for local producers in the market. Most of the crops (60%) are to be found around Ahitouv, in the coastal region of the country. The production is carried out in close cooperation with supermarkets and wholesalers, who buy up the entire local production in order to bring it to the local market. Through this collaboration, it has been possible to maintain prices at a reasonable level for both consumers and producers.

At this time, a cucumber costs 1 euro per kilo at the store, which is almost a normal price; however, the price that growers receive is significantly lower, about 20 cents per kilo. That is below the cost of production. The main reason for the oversupply is the decision to open the borders to imports from Jordan and the Palestinian territories. These cucumbers are much cheaper because of the low labour costs. Supermarkets, however, charge the same price for these cucumbers as for those grown in Israel, allowing the supermarkets to earn a bigger margin.

Israel is capable of meeting the local demand with locally-grown cucumbers; therefore, growers complain that imports are not necessary. Some suggest that growers may even go bankrupt as a result of the current situation.

Mexico focuses on US
Sinaloa is in an important cucumber production area. In this state, cucumbers stand second in both the production and export volume rankings. The acreage in the region has steadily declined in recent years, but the production has remained virtually stable. This suggests an improvement of the production methods. Traditionally, the production exceeds 200,000 tonnes. 2011 was a very bad year, with a production of 90,000 tonnes, but a year later, the sector recovered and the volume again stood above 280,000 tonnes. This high production is possible thanks to investment in improved cultivation techniques.

The largest part of the harvest is intended for export, only 30% will go to the domestic market. When it comes to destinations, traders look primarily to the US. The fact that Florida does not have enough production to meet its local demand will benefit Mexican growers, who will be covering a larger share of the market.


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

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