Dutch greenhouse vegetable sales have faced several challenges. There was a shortage of light, cold weather, and COVID-19 prevention measures. Ton van Dalen is Oxin Growers' commercial director. Here, he provides an update. That's about the tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, and aubergine markets. "The bell pepper market has never been as bad for the time of year. Especially now, during this Pentecost week," he begins.
Tomatoes: tough start for loose; TOVs off to a flying start
"The start of the season was anything but easy for loose tomatoes. That's thanks to the snow and frost. It was also difficult price-wise. Nut, these gradually improved as the season wore on. Unfortunately, they're currently dropping sharply. It's cold (almost) all over Europe. So, it's not really tomato-eating weather. There's a lot of competition too, mainly from Tunisia and Morocco."
"We hope the gradual reopening of, especially the British, hospitality catering and foodservice sectors will lead to better pricing. Average prices are almost 15% higher than last year. That was a terrible year for loose tomatoes. Production is also not yet running at full speed. That's due to the recent (long) shortage of light," Ton says.
"The latter affected TOVs too. In terms of pricing, both lit and unlit vine tomatoes had a flying start. Regrettably, here too, price formations are cracking here and there. On average, prices are almost the same as last year. The quality is generally good."
Bell peppers: Until week 18, high, but very variable prices
"This year, farmers harvested the first bell peppers in week nine. Until week 18, prices were high, albeit very variable. So, revenues differ per grower. Green, yellow, and orange prices are lower than in 2020. But, the price of red bell peppers was more than 15% higher until week 18. In week 17, prices were more average for the time of year. There was a lot of supply in week 18. Prices are, therefore, now under pressure. We've never had such a bad bell pepper market. Certainly not in this Pentecost week. It's usually a good trading week," Van Dalen continues.
"The market can't cope with the current high production. Consumer demand is simply too low, thanks in part to the cold European weather. Various countries are canceling orders. That's very unusual. It would be good if the weather improved and production dropped slightly. Otherwise, it could be some time before we get back to acceptable price levels."
Cucumbers: Higher prices than in 2020
"This year, the first cucumbers cultivated under lights were picked in week two. The start of the lit season was promising with good prices. However, prices fell from week eight onwards. So far, prices are higher prices than in 2020. There are no significant cultivation problems. Due to crop rotation, not all hectares are in full production. And there's room in the market," says Ton.
"So, prices won't drop further and will remain at a certain level. Prices picked up a little in early May. They climbed to €0.18 for 35s and €0.22 for the 40s. The weather is set to improve by the end of the week. Also, the hospitality industry's reopening further. And the UK is making more purchases. These are all positive signs that prices could rise."
Aubergine: prices considerably lower
Last but not least, aubergines. According to Ton, they had a tough start to the season. That was partly due to competition from Spain. "Prices are significantly lower than in 2020. They've fallen by almost 20% so far. European retailers only really switched to Dutch aubergines in week 19," he concludes.