Horti-Consult International visits Polish horticulture sector

Poland's accelerating economy provides room for new glass

Since Poland joined the EU, many second-hand greenhouses have been bought from the Netherlands. In recent years, more new construction is seen in the country. Modern greenhouses are being built by Dutch, but also Polish builders. That's one of the things the Horti-Consult International team noticed during their trip to Poland.

In November 2016, the Horti-Consult International advisors visited the country to get an idea of the developments in (greenhouse) horticulture. Every year, the company travels to a country where horticulture is evolving, taking them to locations like Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires, Azerbaijan and South Korea. This week we will publish their journals from their recent trip to Poland in November 2016.

Accelerating economy

Currently, Poland's economy is experiencing an acceleration. Following the Second World War, its economy was modeled after that of the Soviet Union, with major companies all owned by the state. Only the agricultural sector had smaller, family-owned companies next to the large, state-owned companies.

In 2004, Poland joined the EU, and state-owned companies were phased out or sold. A number of smaller companies did see some growth, but the structure of a number of big players combined with much smaller companies is still seen in horticulture. The economy has been growing steadily since joining the European Union, with things like infrastructure having improved significantly.

Wages in Poland are closer to those paid in the Netherlands, and in some places there is already a shortage of personnel. A few of the greenhouse companies visited had mostly Ukrainians, Vietnamese and Bangaldeshis working there. One company even had difficulties getting enough workers. Horti-Consult expects that the flow of workers from Poland to countries like the Netherlands will increase strongly and rapidly.

Energy is available in abundance. The country has a major supply of coals, and 97% of the energy is generated in coal plants. Greenhouse companies are often located near these plants, for easy access to (residual) heat. Water isn't an issue. There's sufficient water available, of high quality. Land isn't expensive, costing around 3000 euros per hectare. When you want to buy a bigger piece of land and you need a lot of smaller plots of land to do that, the price could increase to 10,000 euros per hectare. Electricity costs around 75 euros per MW, heat is 4.5 euros per GJ.

Poland is a relatively flat country, with only some mountainous areas in the south. The east is more forested. The west of the country is used a lot for agriculture, with large pieces of land. The country gets a lot of precipitation (750-900 mm), with November and December being particularly wet and foggy. The winters are severe, with fierce eastern winds. The snowstorms in autumn are a danger to greenhouses, because a lot of snow can fall in a short period of time. Half a meter of snow in an hour isn't an exception. In summer, temperatures can rise to over 25 degrees.

Greenhouse horticulture
Greenhouse horticulture is still relatively small compared to the Netherlands, but some growth and evolution is noticeable. In the past, companies were always situated close to the bigger cities, because of the proximity of the target market and workers. Many companies are still quite small, with only 4 companies in the country being larger than 30 hectares. After joining the EU, many second-hand greenhouses were bought in the Netherlands and rebuilt in Poland. In recent years, there's been more new construction of modern greenhouses by Dutch and Polish builders.

Cucumbers, tomatoes
Poland currently has around 1100 ha of greenhouse vegetable cultivation. Tomatoes are grown on around 850 hectares, with the other 250 ha being dedicated to cucumbers. Cucumber cultivation focuses on a sort of medium-sized cucumber. A large pink tomato, mostly grown in smaller companies, is dominant in the tomato segment. Over 50% of the market consists of 180-200 gram tomatoes.

The bigger companies are moving a bit more towards longer cucumbers and different tomato types. The shift to smaller tomatoes and putting them in smaller packages is also rising. Around 60 ha of various small tomatoes are grown. The pink tomato is also losing ground, because they have lower yields (over 40 kg, while varieties like Merlice go toward 50 kg). Also, the pink tomato is pretty sensitive to blossom end rot, which causes a lot of trouble in warmer summers. The quality of the pink tomatoes, especially the flavor, does mean these tomatoes are significantly more expensive than other varieties. These varieties are also grown in Spain, but according to Horti-Consult those are less flavorsome, and thus unable to take the place of the Polish pink tomato.

Peppers aren't grown in Polish greenhouses, but in summer a type of short pepper is grown in the open field. One of the companies visited also grows radish in the greenhouse. They are able to do 1 round less a year than in the Netherlands, and the high amount of mechanization was also noticeable. The cost price of tomato cultivation in Poland is between 50 and 55 cents, and 42 cents on a greenhouse without a mortgage. Next up are two companies visited by the Horti-Consult team.

During this trip, the team of Horti-Consult International visited two companies, Mularski and Citronex. You can read more about these visits in tomorrow's HortiDaily.

For more information:
Gilbert Heijens
Horti-Consult International

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