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Kees Havenaar:

“Everyone benefits from real winters”

Spanish growers are investing considerably in greenhouse vegetables. Kees Havenaar of Frutas Luna notices enormous projects emerging. From his base in Almeria, Spain, he sees the ‘province of plastic’ changing, and he paints a picture of the coming greenhouse vegetable season. The rise of the bell pepper and decline of tomatoes is remarkable.

This year, the production of bell peppers increased by five per cent compared to last year. “Divided over the colours red and yellow, so more bell peppers once again,” Kees sums up the situation. “With a good setting, there will be many bell peppers, although I don’t think this will cause problems, because Israel is sending less and less to Europe.” Not much has changed for cucumbers regarding late cucumbers. “Courgettes have the same area as last year, but I think slightly more has been planted for aubergines. The tomato area appears to be getting smaller every year, this is also caused by many virus problems. Less is planted every year.”

Spain has good cards
“I’m seeing many enormous projects with heating here. Everything has been pre-sold with contracts. If you haven’t done that, it’ll become very expensive and definitely very daring. Hats off to the growers who dare to work without contracts.” Greenhouse growers with foil greenhouses occasionally try other crops. “If you have a plastic greenhouse, you use it, so I occasionally see one with papayas or potted plants, but it’s always just business as usual.” Growers from Murcia in particular are dealing with water shortages, which causes problems for the current season. “Everything that is planted now will have problems, unless it starts raining considerably, but that would bring other problems with it.” Growers only have limited options to prepare for rain. “You can’t change anything about that,” Kees says. “If you have a foil greenhouse, it can be changed in such a way water can’t get in, but outdoor growers don’t have that option.”

The bad weather during the first months of the year, the drought and heat from last summer; this year illustrates the challenges confronting the Spanish sector. Despite all this, Spanish growers have good cards for the future, according to Kees. “Of course Spain has good cards. New things will be developed, in the Netherlands there’s more and more illuminated production, and in other European countries as well. As long as we have the sun in Spain, we’ll be fine.”

Getting on the market with one pallet
Kees isn’t worried about competition from other countries around the Mediterranean Sea either. “There’s much competition, but there always has been. The Netherlands might be our biggest competitor, because they have more and more illuminated production, and they can extend the season without too many costs due to the better autumn weather. Because winters are becoming colder, people arrive on the market earlier. That’s why greenhouse production lasts less long, and the Spanish season becomes pressured. Everyone would benefit from real winters, at least in our sector.”

There’s hardly any room for Spanish growers on niche markets. Striped aubergines, yellow courgettes, it’s all treated the same. “You can get on the market with one pallet, but when you have two, no one will even look at you anymore,” Kees exemplifies. “These are by-products, products for fun, but not for volumes.”

More information:
Frutas Luna
Kees Havenaar
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