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Nursery de Kreek: back to cucumbers

"You just canít compete with 90 hectares of peppers"

Normally about now the first peppers would be harvested in Nursery de Kreek in 's-Gravendeel, the Netherlands. However, this year grower Kees de Kreek has already been harvesting for three weeks. In recent years he saw the acreage of peppers increasing and decided to make the right switch. A switch to cucumbers. "It's a lot more work, but last year the earnings were good. And that is what itís all about."

After years of decline, since 2015 the acreage of peppers is significantly on the rise again in Holland. Last year about 90 hectares were added and this year it is expected to grow again by a few dozen hectares. "I just didnít to want to get involved in this," says Kees. "Our acreage here is 1.6 hectares. You just canít compete with all these hectares." He knows what he's talking about: in 2008 he also observed a sizeable growth of the Dutch pepper acreage. "And that didnít always go well. In the end you have to find a mouth for each pepper."

Last year the pepper acreage increased again for the first time since 2010. This year, dozens of hectares will be added.

High wire cultivation
That is why, since 2016, there are cucumbers in his greenhouse again. "Just like old times," he says. "We grew peppers for eleven years, but originally we were growing cucumbers. When we had a good pepper year, we were able to finance the transition to high-wire cultivation. In the greenhouse it is still fine, but also in the warehouse everything had to be changed. However, the choice was actually made quite fast."

With the switch to cucumbers Kees hopes to keep his relatively small nursery profitable in the coming years. He combines the cucumber with a few rows of tomato and pepper, for direct sales. "The growing of cucumbers is more labor intensive than peppers or tomatoes. That is why you see that the companies remain smaller. It is not very likely that you will encounter a cucumber nursery of 90 hectares," he expects. "I am 56 and hope to continue for another ten years - but I do not know if my son wants to take over the company. For that reason you do not want to make a big investment anymore."

For now, the switch suits him fine. "With cucumbers you have many more kilos to carry about. Because you have changes in cultivation throughout the year, you still can make some money by switching at the right time and being back in time. In peppers everybody starts and stops at about the same time. Then the growing speed of the crop is what makes the difference." However, it also means more hard work for the grower. "But that does not matter. That actually is good. Peppers were not labor-intensive enough for my acreage. Now, through the week we just can work normally again from 6 to 6."

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Publication date: 3/17/2017



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