In March, the Dutch House of Representatives received an inventory from the sector. It shows that, due to the high gas prices, 40% of horticultural businesses could be in financial problems within six months. So writes climate minister Rob Jetten in a letter.
That is in response to parliamentary questions about the report about 'High gas prices forcing almost half of greenhouse horticulturists to stop permanently or temporarily'. Jetten also states that he will inform the House of Representatives about what is at stake for the greenhouse horticulture sector at the end of April.
According to Minister Jetten, it is impossible to estimate how many companies might fail or stand empty this winter if circumstances or energy costs remain unchanged. "Gas prices fluctuate, and the gas market situation is very uncertain. There are also very different signals from the sector. Growers are coming up with creative solutions for less intensive winter cultivation. Of course, we share the concerns and urgency. The current high energy prices are causing issues," writes the minister.
"We are discussing these with the sector and banks. But we cannot rule out that some companies will go bankrupt and call on the sector to take the right path. It must invest in sustainability and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. That is needed to achieve our climate goals. But the Netherlands must also reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and the sector must become more resilient to high, volatile energy prices. Everyone will have to contribute to this. And, from a business perspective, it is necessary for the sector too."
Jetten acknowledges that large-scale bankruptcy within the Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector would directly impact other sectors. "Within the horticultural cluster, there's close cooperation between horticulturalists, suppliers, trade, and technology. If lots of growers go under, it will affect the entire horticultural cluster in the Netherlands."
Jetten was also asked about switching to sustainable sources, like geothermal energy, and admitted that such alternatives often take time. "You could achieve other options, such as, for instance, solar heat, in a shorter time. That does not mean the transition is only just beginning, and there are no actionable choices. Several projects are already at an advanced stage, and businesses are working on energy savings and cultivation modifications that use less gas for heating and electricity for lighting."
Many companies are now also applying for the Energy Efficiency Greenhouse Horticulture (EG) subsidy scheme. "The current situation once again makes clear the urgency and necessity of accelerating the climate and energy transition. At the end of April, the government will provide information about the coalition agreement's elaboration and the climate and energy transition in greenhouse horticulture," the minister writes.
At the end of April, so about now, we should get more information about the government's intentions for the greenhouse horticulture sector. "We will focus on, particularly, the elaboration of the coalition agreement, the importance of energy-saving, and the energy and climate transition acceleration. We will continue to discuss what is needed to accelerate this transition with the sector and banks in the short term too. We will also discuss what individual companies can do in the short term."
The way things stand makes it even more urgent for the sector to rapidly become less fossil fuel-dependent, increasingly save energy, and switch to using other energy sources, says Jetten. "For that, the sector must also take real steps. We are looking at what we can do for companies. We are, however, not going to compensate for the high gas prices."
"The high energy prices concern everyone; it affects the whole of the Netherlands. It reinforces the need to take rapid action on energy conservation and climate transition. I want to also draw attention to the European Commission's plan to quickly reduce dependence on Russian gas while accelerating the energy transition (REPowerEU)," he writes.