A winter without lettuce or tomatoes?

“Tony Montalbano’s family have been growing vegetables in the South East of England for decades. Neither recessions, nor economic shocks, nor episodes of high inflation have forced them to interrupt their production.” This year, however, says the FinancialTimes, heating the greenhouses has become too expensive and the farmer is considering giving up his cucumber crops.

Tony Montalbano, who explains that the amount of his electricity bills has multiplied by five since last year, is far from being the only one in Europe. Almost everywhere, soaring energy costs are pushing farmers and agri-food companies to reduce their production, notes the economic newspaper. “Crops that require intensive heating in cold climates, such as cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, are most directly affected,” add the FT. But also those which, like apples in Belgium, need to be refrigerated to increase their shelf life. In summary :

“Rising refrigeration, heating and transportation costs have deterred farmers from starting planting.”

And it is the whole European food supply chain that is upset, the price of fertilizers or animal feed having also skyrocketed.

greenhouses in the dark

In the Netherlands, which accounts for a fifth of world tomato exports, many greenhouses will go extinct. The lighting is however used for the growth of these fruits. Similar situation at Alfred Pedersen & Son, the largest tomato supplier in Sweden and Denmark. According to FinancialTimesthis giant “supplies supermarkets with 20,000 tons of tomatoes a year, of which about a quarter is produced in winter”. But this winter its 350,000 square meters of greenhouses will also remain in the dark.

In France, it was the sugar beet producers who anticipated possible gas shortages. They have brought forward their harvests in order to start their energy-intensive processing sooner, the newspaper notes.

When the coldest countries are afraid of not being able to heat their greenhouses, those in milder latitudes say they are doubly penalized: by inflation and by the drought this summer. In Italy, notes the FinancialTimessome farmers, who benefit from fixed-price electricity contracts, prefer to resell it rather than use it for their crops.

For consumers, winter is therefore announced under the sign of higher prices and shortages, predicts the FinancialTimes quoting Pekka Pesonen, general secretary of Copa-Cogeca, a European farmers’ union:

“It’s something we’ve never seen before. And no one saw it coming and on such a scale.”

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