Northern Europe is satisfied with its bell pepper season. Growers in the Netherlands and Belgium benefit from an early end and a late start of the Spanish season. In the south, prices in Italy are high, because part of the harvest burned under the summer sun. Israel is expecting a lot less volume this year, partly due to disappearing and switching growers. Canada lifted an extra import tax on Dutch export, which is good news for the Dutch sector. In the US, there is limited availability of red and yellow peppers, causing prices to rise. The high supply of green ones keeps those prices stable. Peru recently gained access to the American market, but the export of bell peppers isn’t particularly big. In Australia, there are big price differences between greenhouse and open field bell peppers. China mostly produces for the domestic market.

Crop estimate Israel -30%
The consequences of three dramatic seasons leaves a big mark on Israeli bell pepper cultivation. Production went down from 130,000 tonnes last year to between 90,000 and 95,000 tonnes this year, a thirty percent decrease. Still, the expectations for the season are positive. The season is expected to start on the 3rd week in November, a delayed start due to extreme drought in August and September.

The big decline in production is partly due to the loss of growers, and partly due to government policy. In recent years, growers who switched to a product other than bell peppers could get a subsidy. That caused a switch from bell peppers to dates and eggplants. On the sales side, the number of players has also decreased, from fifty exporters to ten. Last season started promisingly, the Russian boycott created opportunities for the exporters, some of whom focused fully on this market. When the rouble fell mid-season (December 2014), these exporters lost a lot of money. In addition to the exchange rate, it also turned out to be difficult to get bills paid.

Start Spanish season delayed
The start of the season in Almería was tough, with low quality and small volumes, caused by the warm weather during the growing period. The shortage of red bell peppers was remarkable. Prices at auctions ranged from 1.80 euros per kilo for the red bell pepper to 2.50 euros per kilo for the red pointed pepper. With supplies stabilizing, prices are going down to the normal level of around one euro per kilo. The yellow pepper gets the highest yields at the moment, 1.17 euros per kilo at auction. The green ones are the cheapest, at 52 cents per kilo. 60 cents per kilo is paid for the pointed peppers.

The acreage in Almería numbers 9400 hectares, mainly bell peppers. The amount of Palermo peppers is also growing. Demand for this variety is growing, encouraging growers to switch. Supply and demand are balanced.

Spanish trade is expecting little competition from Turkey and Israel. Traders from both countries assume that Russia will be the main export market this season.

Spanish demand for bell peppers from Peru has risen sharply. Spain is the main buyer of the bell pepper. The increases is a result of the role of the pepper in Mediterranean cuisine, and an increasing interest in organic food.

Italian harvest burnt under summer sun
High temperatures inhibited production in Italy. The harvest turned out lower, and what was harvested was smaller. The high temperature also had negative consequences for cultivation, for instance in the development of viruses. The open field production burned in the sun. When in September demand increased, but supply remained low, prices went up. The main cultivation regions are in Southern Italy, particularly Sicily, Apulia, Campania and Lazio. The market has a preference for the Lamuyo pepper, bell peppers are imported, although there is some production in Northern Italy. Main suppliers are Spain and the Netherlands.

German consumer opts for red and yellow
Prices in Germany are significantly higher in week 42 than in other years, BLE says in a recent report on the situation in that week. The Dutch red peppers have a market share of 48.2 percent. Second and third are Spain (30%) and Turkey (13%). Other suppliers are Poland and Belgium, with a share of 5.3 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. Dutch and Belgian peppers yielded 231 and 233 euros per 100 kilos, a year earlier that price was 164 and 150 euros for 100 kilos. For the green bell peppers, a similar situation applies. The Netherlands has the highest market share, at 37.5 percent. Turkey and Spain take second and third place, with 31.5 percent and 20.3 percent. Prices for green peppers are also higher than last year. The Dutch and Belgian peppers in particular yield more, 185 and 167 euros per 100 kilos, compared to 129 and 126 euros per 100 kilos a year before. The price difference for the Turkish ones is not as big. They yield two euros per 100 kilos more.

On the market for yellow peppers, the Netherlands is the absolute leader with a market share of 59.4 percent. Spain accounts for another 32.8 percent, third place is for Belgium with 4.7 percent. While the red and green ones yielded more, the price of the yellow pepper increased more rapidly. Dutch peppers yielded 135 euros per 100 kilos last year, this year that price nearly doubled to 262 euros. The Belgian pepper also showed a strong increase, from 134 euros per 100 kilos to 243 euros. The price for Spanish bell peppers went up less rapidly, from 124 euros per 100 kilos to 178 euros.

The German production is nearing its end. As with other crops, the start was later than usual under the influence of the weather. Due to the warm weather, the harvest turned out lower than expected. The year-round production is heading for another peak period again in November. The German consumer prefers the red, yellow and orange bell pepper. The green variety has been under pressure lately. In Austria and Hungary, the green pepper is more popular. The snack pepper segment will continue to grow in the coming years, both in terms of demand and size of the product range. The pointed pepper also has a positive forecast.

Belgian growers optimistic about season
The season in Belgium is also nearing its end. Supplies are expected for another two weeks. The bell pepper performs better this month than last year, one trader says. The Belgian growers benefit from the delayed start in Spain, yielding good prices. The start of the season was also positive, which was very welcome after previous tough seasons, the trader said.

Dutch trade: good year, but no structural improvement
After a number of very difficult years, prices are good this year. The season will continue for another four weeks or so. The good results were caused by a number of factors: the acreage has shrunken slightly, production turned out lower, and Spain was off the market earlier, and will enter the market later. These factors, traders say, aren’t structural, so there’s no room for a lot of euphoria. Prices for the green peppers were bad, sometimes even below the level of the Spanish ones.

The crop rotation has started at bell peppers growers, with most growers making the switch in the coming weeks. They’re trying to extend the season for as long as possible because of the good prices, but that could have an affect on quality now and then. This is also related to the huge growing strength at the beginning of the season. It has been a good year though, and the quality has generally been good.

The growth of specialties is going very slowly. While a few years ago it was thought that the snack pepper and the snack cucumber would be as big of a hit in Europe as the snack tomato, that belief is no longer held. There is a market for the specialties, but because the product is totally different and also more expensive to produce, it can’t be compared.

Diversification is noticeable in the Netherlands though. The pointed pepper has become a staple in the market, the orange pepper has conquered its spot, and exclusive things are being played with, for instance the bicoloured pepper since this year, and various applications for the bell pepper: in wine, chutney and ice cream, for instance.

Poland: limited own cultivation
Polish cultivation has been on the rise in recent years. The volume increases annually, and investments are made in production. Central Poland has greenhouse cultivation in foil greenhouses, open field cultivation can be found in the north, but the quality of it is not as good. The season for greenhouse cultivation is short, because the greenhouses aren’t heated. In terms of quality, Poland can’t compete with the Dutch and Spanish pepper, but around sixty percent is exported nonetheless. Big markets are Russia, the Baltic states and Western Europe. Outside the own season, bell peppers are imported from Western Europe.

France: export useless
French production is limited, and mostly focused in the south. The total production is low, and the bell peppers are sold on the domestic market. The French season runs from April to October, the past season the fruit vegetables yielded 2 euros per kilo. There is also a lot of import. Export of bell peppers is “useless”, says one grower, due to Spain having more of a competitive edge.

US: fewer red and yellow peppers available
The volumes of green peppers from California are once again showing an upward trend, supplies of yellow and red ones remain low. If supplies remain low, prices for the coloured peppers are expected to increase toward the end of the year. The season of the mini peppers also looks to end with high prices. Although there is increasing variety in the range of peppers, the traditional bell peppers retain the highest share of the market. The American market offers a lot of potential for the Peruvian export. Since last month, Peru has had access to the American market, where consumption is growing.

Canada ends dump tax Dutch pepper
The Canadian authorities have lifted the dump tax, imposed in 2010 on Dutch peppers. The Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) decided on this earlier this week. Since October 2010, there had been an import tax of 193 percent on Dutch peppers. This way, the country wanted to protect the domestic growers. The measure followed the dramatic bell pepper year of 2009, when local producers went to court to limit the import of Dutch peppers.

According to the CITT, there has been no damage due to the dumping of bell peppers, but there is a chance of damages in the future. The decreased acreage in the Netherlands was beneficial for the Netherlands. The tax also applied to transit of peppers from Spain and Israel, the tax has also been lifted for that export.

Peru gains access to US
The Peruvian red pepper export is on the rise. This year, the volume already increased by 67 percent, partly because of the high demand from Spain. The European country is the most important export destination for the piquillo pepper, with export increasing by 57 percent. Another market where Peru is growing rapidly, is the United States. Since last month, the American borders are open for Peruvian export. There are strict demands regarding export and products though. For instance, peppers need to be grown in greenhouses where fruit flies don’t have a chance. To further expand export, investments in technologies are necessary.

In general, the export of fresh peppers takes up a small part of the total export. Processed peppers, dried or preserved, have a bigger market share in the export. Ways to increase the export of fresh peppers are being considered.

Australia: big differences open field and greenhouse pepper

Down under, bell peppers are grown year-round, in greenhouses and open field. The growing conditions were good, but pricewise there are big differences between the production methods. The greenhouse pepper yields about 6 dollars a kilo on the wholesale market, for the open field pepper the price is between 2 and 2.50 dollars per kilo. The low price for open field production is partly caused by the abundant production in Northern Queensland. The Tasmanian and Southern Australian greenhouse growers faced a cold winter, which influenced the harvest. Nevertheless, interest in greenhouse cultivation is growing.

China: more greenhouse production
China is among the world’s biggest growers of bell peppers, with most of the harvest being sold on the domestic market. After a peak in prices in 2013, when the acreage decreased in the summer, the price started to decrease again in the past two years. The greenhouse peppers are available year-round, and investments are being made in this production. The greenhouse pepper’s market share is on the rise. Starting next week, harvesting of the open field production will commence, and prices are expected to decrease as a result. Traders reckon with prices below last year’s level, partly due to an increase in the acreage. The main production regions are in Shandong, Hebei, Nanjing and Shanxi.

Every week, FreshPlaza publishes an overview of the market situation of a product in a worldwide context. With these articles, we're aiming to give an idea of a global market that's becoming ever smaller as a result of globalization. Next week, the spotlight is on lettuce.