Spring weather is here, and Dutch greenhouse vegetables are coming onto the market. Commercial Director, Ton van Dalen, of Oxin Growers, takes a look back and ahead. "We can say that, for Easter, the overall demand for greenhouse vegetables is good. This week's orders are also encouraging. But, the question remains - what effect will the lack of wholesale/hospitality industry sales have? Especially when the Netherlands gets into full production."
Cucumbers: from a flying start to not selling at auction
"The Dutch cucumber season was off to a flying start. Cucumbers of good quality and color came from under the lights. Until week 9, there were low, unpredictable Dutch and Spanish supplies. In Spain, that was caused by low temperatures and the storm, "Gloria". It hit at the beginning of the year. From week 6 to 10, almost every week started with slight pressure on the prices. Disappointing volumes would follow. And a price increase would be noted at the end of the week."
"We saw an increase in smaller sizes this year. That is due to the gloomy weather. The m2 yield has been low too. In short, until week 10, cucumber prices were good. This was combined with somewhat lower yields and normal sales. From week 10, Spanish production was at normal levels for that time of year. The Netherlands was also in full production," says Ton, in retrospect.
"But, the uncertainty struck the market during week 11. The coronavirus turned the market upside down. In week 12's first days, we witnessed the panic-buying at retailers. That pushed prices up. That was partly due to not knowing if Spain would close its borders. But, this upward trend was short-lived. Prices plummeted midway through week 12 already."
"The price drop was unsustainable. That was due to not only good Dutch cucumber production. That is thanks to the sunny weather. The Spanish borders stayed open too. The chain's stocks also increased considerably during that time. The corona crisis has a major effect on several sales channels. Hospitality industry businesses and wholesale markets throughout Europe are closed," explains Ton.
"This has a significant impact on all cucumber size sales. This uncertainly led to this product not selling at auctions in Belgium and the Netherlands. The price per piece for cucumbers is less than half of what it was at the same time last year. These prices started climbing in week 14 again. But it was still not enough to cover the farmers' costs."
Aubergines: Better prospects undone
"Aubergines started with difficulty. At the beginning of the season already, there was considerable competition from Spain. There was more than enough Spanish supply to meet retailers' demands. That meant the Netherlands did more day trading than usual. Europe and the Netherlands gradually started switching over from Spanish to Dutch aubergines," continues Van Dalen.
But that was only after the end of week 8 / beginning of week 9. Things seemed fine in week 10. Production in the Netherlands was increasing. But supplies to the retail sector was also slowly decreasing. We did, however, face a backlog compared to 2019. That was due to the mediocre start."
"From week 11, we entered an extremely tumultuous market, just like with cucumbers. Sales to wholesale markets fell away. This was caused by all the anti-coronavirus measures. This had an impact. For aubergines, it means the better prospects of week 10 were entirely undone. Prices dropped even more than in 2019. But, aubergines' prices started rising nicely again from week 14 too," says the Commercial Director.
Bell peppers: Good Easter demand
"The Dutch bell pepper season has actually only just started. Prices are generally good, as is demand. Green bell pepper prices are fluctuating a little more. But, that is highly dependent on daily demand. There was good demand for Easter."
Loose tomatoes: Prices, demand lagging behind TOV
"We are also just starting with loose tomatoes. Their price is lagging considerably compared to grape tomatoes. Of course, the loose tomato market is limited to almost only England and Scandanavia. And, to a lesser degree, the Netherlands. But that cannot be the only reason. Here the disappearance of wholesale, hospitality, and foodservice sales also counts. There seems to be a higher demand for tomatoes on the vine too. We also often see lower loose tomato prices than those for TOV's at the start of the season. That changes in the summer."
Large TOV: less dependent on wholesale trade
"The start of the TOV year was characterized by strong weekly programs. This was especially in the UK, Poland, and usually Germany. Limited volumes were selling through day trade. The Dutch harvest was regular yet disappointing. The Spanish harvest was certainly disappointing. That was due to the bad weather there. Prices, therefore, remained at a good level," says Ton.
"From the end of week 8, the harvested volumes in the Netherlands started rising sharply. That resulted in a price drop at the start of week 9. The first holiday of 2020 also affected this. Supermarkets took somewhat less of this product. Large grape tomatoes are highly dependent on sales to the retail sector, certainly in winter."
"These sales recovered at the end of week 9. The price decrease quickly transformed into an increase. Things changed quickly at the end of week 9. That was due to the good volumes going to retailers. Prices in week ten rose nicely again. From the end of week 11/start of week 12, we saw the hoarding behavior at stores," Van Dalen says.
"This was the same for all the products. That resulted in a steep price increase. Large tomatoes on the vine sales are less dependent on wholesalers at that time of year. This is in contrast to cucumbers and aubergines. The dip in large grape tomato prices was still big. However, the absolute price was not as extremely low as for loose tomatoes, cucumbers, and aubergine."
"During the start of the year, there was a lower supply with higher prices. That meant we have been able to keep sales at that level. Cultivation usually comes in full production in the coming months. Then we will see if the wholesale sales that have fallen away will affect these TOVs too," concludes Ton.