This year's Dutch iceberg lettuce season offers little cause for celebration. "Prices have been under pressure almost right from the start. Sales are lagging, and if you don't sell enough, you sometimes have to make hard choices, such as tilling fields. Costs have sky-rocketed, and few people can grow lettuce for prices of around €3.50/box," says Niels Zuurbier of Ursem-Zuurbier. He also chairs the Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Association's open field vegetable division.
Niels Zuurbier (second from right) and his colleagues
"There's so much product on the market. I think that's largely because of changing spending habits due to inflation. There aren't that many vegetables so they're currently selling well. People in the processing industry tell me our brands of canned and frozen vegetables are also doing particularly well. If people have to spend considerably more on groceries, they'll make choices; they start setting priorities."
"There's a huge staff shortage in the processing industry, though. If lines are standing still, it affects sales. The vegetable world is presently generally in a tough situation," says Niels, who also belongs to the Everest growers' association, "and I fear it will only get worse. I have grave concerns for the entire agriculture and horticulture sector, given the adjustments the government is making."
"Besides iceberg lettuce, we're also in the cabbage business. We do quite a bit of flat cabbage, for example. We have regular customers for this niche product, so they're selling. But, the white cabbage market is on the decline now that there is more new produce. It will eventually rebound, but, for now, things look fairly dismal in the vegetable sector," concludes Niels.
For more information:
Ursem – Zuurbier C.V.
1704 DV, Heerhugowaard, NL
Tel: +31 (0) 654 741 523