FD: Food crisis deepens

The crisis in the Dutch glasshouse horticulture sector is spreading from cucumbers to tomatoes. This is bad news for growers because tomatoes account for a much greater trade volume, writes the Financieele dagblad.

The export of tomatoes to Germany has collapsed and Russia has recently closed its borders to all EU salad stuffs.
The troubled sector saw tomato prices hit rock bottom on Wednesday. Soon after the E.coli warning went out earlier this week, German consumers stopped eating fresh salad stuffs. German retailers simply cannot cope with the quota reserved for them. They are already unable to shift what they have. Dutch exporters are now left with huge numbers of tomatoes.
Important export product
‘This is dramatic. I have never seen anything like it’, says Martin de Vries, director of Univeg Benelux, one of the five top exporters of fruit and vegetables. According to De Vries, the demand for Dutch tomatoes in Germany all but disappeared. Univeg’s main market is Germany but he thinks sales in the Netherlands are down too.
The export value of tomatoes is estimated at € 700m a year, three times that of cucumbers.
The loss of the markets in Germany and Russia is causing a glut in other European countries. Truss tomatoes – usually sold for €0.70 per kilo – are now raising no more than eight or nine cents. Other varieties are being sold for even less. Exporters say they may have to destroy tomatoes as is happening with the cucumbers.
Exporter Haluco is trying to sell its tomatoes to Poland and the Czech Republic but director Johan Hensen thinks this market will become saturated very quickly. He fears that Dutch growers will face bankruptcy if the government doesn’t support them or if things in Germany don’t improve. ‘It is all down to the media coverage of the E.coli bacterium in Germany. If any doubts about the source of the outbreak remain we are in for some difficult times’.
The collapse comes at a very bad time. The four weeks around Pentecost are traditionally the busiest for growers of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The Dutch export of peppers accounts for €750m, a third of which comes from Germany. The price for peppers too has gone down by 70 percent.
Exporters and growers alike are suffering. Some are even putting in doubt the survival of the entire glasshouse horticulture sector.
This is an unofficial translation

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