In Belgium, tomato prices are skyrocketing again. Several media outlets are widely reporting the market shortages, and it seems relief is a while coming. "It's a chain of events," explains Benny Cuypers of BelOrta. "Climate problems in the south led to disappointing harvests and energy costs are high. Our winter productions were, thus, undeniably lower. This shortage is a result of all these factors."
Also, last week, Turkije decided to limit tomato exports because of the higher prices and the recent devasting earthquake. "That means almost all tomato varieties' prices have skyrocketed. We have some local tomatoes but in minimal quantities. The big volumes won't hit the market until April, though we'll have a little bit more quietly arriving in March," says Benny.
The entire greenhouse vegetable range is in a similar boat. "We recently auctioned the first green bell peppers, but even there, the supply's still very limited. Cucumbers are the only exception. We currently have many of those, but we're barely scraping by with other products." That includes lettuce, of which the cooperative had 30% less this winter. "Again, due to energy costs, less was planted and lit. The high prices of around a euro per head reflect that," Benny continues.
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnip seasons almost over
"Neither are things any no different with open-field vegetables. We presently don't have heaps of Brussels sprouts, Chinese/savoy cabbage, or turnips. For winter vegetables, that's due to last year's hot, dry summer, resulting in more loss than in other years. But their seasons are almost over. However, there's a reasonable amount of leeks and chicory available. Here too, it's less than normal, but that situation's still manageable."
BelOrta recently received the first asparagus too. "We're a few weeks into that, but only with heated and greenhouse cultivation. So, volumes are still limited," says Cuypers, "It'll be a few more weeks before the open-filed crops are ready for harvest. The market seems more than ready for these, though, because, here too, there are issues with the Spanish productions."
"We'd generally have, overall, preferred slightly higher volumes. Fortunately, the volumes which are there are being marketed at good prices. After all, we must remember these higher prices are much needed to keep cultivation viable for growers. It remains to be seen how things will develop in the coming weeks as more supply becomes available again," Benny concludes.
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