Most lettuce and vegetable growing regions in Europe are currently experiencing an exceptionally difficult summer campaign as a result of the dramatic and extreme weather conditions of recent weeks and months. This is compounded by restrictions or initial bans on the use of water, as increased alert levels or already crisis warnings are in place in almost all growing regions. Producers of fresh-cut salads have been particularly hard hit by the resulting supply bottlenecks.
According to the association Kulinaria Deutschland e.V., which represents around 130 medium-sized companies in the food industry, several climatic phenomena, each with an "exceptional character," are currently occurring in many growing regions in Europe:
1. a first heat wave in mid-June affecting crops currently being harvested, which has led to problems with availability and quality.
2. a second heat wave, even more severe in the second half of July, with already irreversible damage to the quality of all leafy vegetables for the current harvests and until at least mid-September.
3. an unprecedented water deficit in large areas of Europe, even leading to irrigation bans in some regions and further exacerbating the effects of the heat waves. All lettuces in both conventional and organic production are affected by the above problems.
The consequences for the crops are manifold:
An overall deterioration in the quality of the plants: shoot and internal necrosis associated with the bursting of the cells of the young leaves (known as black rot).
Greatly reduced yields per hectare. Severe heat and lack of water block the vegetative cycle of the plants: from reduced yields to complete destruction of entire plots.
"Freshly" planted lettuces, which cannot root properly and therefore die quickly, are already causing the supply bottlenecks of the coming weeks.
"Despite all the measures taken by our member companies to limit the consequences of the weather extremes for their customers, we have to note that the supply of virtually all fresh-cut raw produce is already extremely disrupted," says Dr. Markus Weck, explaining the situation for producers. "It is also foreseeable that these problems will intensify in the coming weeks," Weck continues.
The weather conditions in the coming weeks will be quite decisive for the course of this year's summer campaign, but it is already clear that there is a serious supply crisis that will peak in August and September and that will impact until the end of October. This is true for all lettuce varieties currently being harvested, as well as for traditional fall commodities.
From today's perspective, member companies face very significant challenges in the coming months in order to ensure the supply of fresh-cut produce of the usual quality under the given circumstances and to limit the consequences of the supply crisis as much as possible.