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Peter Horvath:

“An auction is a good way to sell large volumes in a short time”

The clock is standing at 13 SEK (about 1.30 euro) but it is falling fast. In five minutes, a few thousand boxes of cucumbers are sold, and the market price for the day is set. The season is almost over. Then the calmer time begins at Odlarlaget, one of the three largest production organisations in Sweden. This wholesaler also has the country’s only cucumber auction, where market prices are determined.

Four buyers are present at the auction. Larger companies take part via internet.

“We are expecting the first winter production of cucumbers in week 44,” says Peter Horvath, Odlarlaget’s Sales Manager. With more than 100 member growers, of which 34 cultivate cucumbers, Odlarlaget represented about 45 000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. The areal of cucumbers that comes to auction stands at 40 hectares. Tomatoes, the producers organisation’s (PO) second product stands at 12 hectares. “Tomatoes and cucumbers are the most important products”, says Peter. “We have noticed that more cucumbers are being cultivated, while the production of tomatoes is decreasing. It is being replaced by, among other, strawberries.

Peter Horvath holds the main business of Odlarlaget: cucumbers.

Production close to the polar circle
The old production organisation went bankrupt in 1992. A new cost efficient way of bringing local products to the market was sought. Opinions among the growers, were, however, divided. Those who wanted to keep the auction system were absorbed into Odlarlaget, while those who deemed fixed agreements to be the future, joined SydGront.

Every day during the season at 15:00 PM sharp Peter starts the auction of cucumbers.

Swedisch apples of the variety Ingrid Marie.

The growers whose sales are organised by Odlarlaget can be found all over the country. “We have a grower, who cultivates cabbage, lettuce, iceberg lettuce, and carrots close to the polar circle,” says Peter. There is also a herb grower far to the North. Most of the growers can, however, be found in Southern Sweden.

The cucumbers arrive lose and are packed at Odlarlaget.

If the season goes well, there will be a good chance of export opportunities to Finland, the Baltic States, and the Czech Republic. “Last year was bad, but this year was worse,” says Peter. “This is our third bad year in a row.” In 2014, a production of 30,000 tonnes of cucumbers; this year it is 26,000 tonnes. “Not all the growers are making money, and it is difficult to compete with the import products.” Most growers do not have the capital to invest in lighting for their greenhouses for winter-production. The fact that the summer days are very long, due to the midnight sun is, however, beneficial to production during the summer.

Packed cucumbers are sorted and ready for the auction.

Scholars and students are a part of the labour behind the harvest in the summer months. During the summer holidays, there are many youngsters who work earn a bit extra by helping with harvesting. It is, however, more important to find workers outside these holidays. “The Poles do not need abroad as much nowadays anymore. Main part of the growers have employed Romanians, Lithuanians or Ukrainians.”

In the afternoon customers come to pick up their orders.

Sweet corn from Swedish soil.

Frost in May disastrous for fruitsector
We had frost in May which damaged the fruit crops. In total, there are only a few hundred fruit growers in Sweden. Small growers often sell their produce directly on the local market; the larger growers need the PO’s. Imported products’ low prices make it difficult to compete. This can easily be seen in the hard fruit sector. Galas are imported from France; Belgium and the Netherlands supply Conference pears; even Poland exports to Sweden. Swedish growers begin the season with the Discovery, Aroma and Ingrid Marie comes later. We try not to cultivate the same varieties as those imported”, says Peter. “We do have Conference that we use for pollination, but they are very difficult to sell since there is a cheap supply of this variety from Belgium. So we tell our growers: try to cultivate different varieties. Our local varieties does additionally taste better,” Peter thinks.

Swedisch strawberries.

Peter thinks the future is bright for Swedish production, despite the competition. “There is room for growth. Other markets are experiencing difficulties and have to deal with the high logistical costs”, he says. Among others, the Danish government plans to implement a toll fee on the roads which will cause transportation costs to rise a bit.

Snack cucumbers from a Swedisch greenhouse grower.

At three in the afternoon, Peter begins the cucumber auction. In the auction house, the buyers sit, waiting, on a couch/bench, for the auction to commence. Four traders have taken the trouble to come to the auction, but there is also online bidding. In a short amount of time, 50 tonnes of cucumbers are auctioned off. “It is a good way to sell a large volume in a short amount of time”, according to Peter. Although the volumes are limited by Dutch standards, this clock sets the market price for the day in Sweden. The average price at the end of this sales round stands at around 9 SEK (0.90 euro).

More Swedish apples.

More information:
Peter Horvath
T: +46 (0)42 499 01 12
M: +46 (0)707 82 82 10
[email protected]
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