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Vegetable producer and wholesaler Peter-Josef Eßer on the current open ground harvest

"Producing quantites of quality regional summer vegetables in these weather conditions is extremely difficult"

The Rhine-Ruhr region is now in full lettuce harvest mode, as Peter-Josef Eßer, a vegetable grower in Korschenbroich and direct marketer at the Düsseldorf wholesale market, tells us. "Due to the ongoing drought and the lack of moisture in the soil, we are finding it extremely difficult to produce regional vegetables in good quantities and decent quality. These conditions significantly affect the growth of summer crops, which is why we are struggling with uneven stocks."

Nevertheless, Eßer says the specific losses are difficult to quantify. "The losses are already significant, both in head lettuces and variegated lettuces, which we mainly harvest now in the summer. Some of the lettuce heads that have grown up are too small-caliber and thus unsaleable."

How the weather will affect later outdoor crops, such as celery and collard greens, which will begin to yield more in October, is difficult to predict at this time. "But we already have to expect that volumes will be rather manageable for these winter crops as well."

Complicating matters this year are the sometimes exorbitant cost increases vegetable growers are facing. "We don't always manage to price through these additional costs. In the case of lettuces, for example, prices have been somewhat lower in recent weeks. But now we have reached a phase in which prices can be gradually increased again."

Together with two sons, Peter-Josef Eßer is at the helm of the family business. Via the local Düsseldorf wholesale market, the direct marketer mainly supplies caterers and specialist retailers.

Little room for maneuver for regional vegetable growers
However, the vegetable market is always good for a surprise, says Eßer: "Experience shows that difficult years are not always the worst." However, the vegetable merchant looks with concern at the future of regional agriculture. "The lack of personnel and the rising minimum wage coupled with the staggered reduction of approved plant protection products mean that the scope for us regional farmers is becoming visibly narrower."

Increase self-sufficiency
Nonetheless, Eßer continues to try to serve its regular customers in the food service and specialty retail sectors with both new and tried-and-true products. "For example, we did not cultivate savoy cabbage for about 20 years. But after we observed an increasing demand, we nevertheless added this crop back to the portfolio. Outdoor herbs are also particularly popular during the season. Finally, we also strive to do justice to the idea of sustainability: We are now planning a photovoltaic system on our cold storage to increase our degree of self-sufficiency. With our finger on the pulse, we want to be increasingly CO2-neutral in the future."

For more information:
Peter-Josef Eßer
P.J. Esser & Söhne Gemüsebau GbR
Großmarkt Düsseldorf 
Halle 13 Stand: 210
Tel: 02182 59104
Fax: 02182 823186
Mobile: 0163 5910402     

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