Europe: Horrendous prices of vegetables and fruits; weather, inflation and energy prices are to blame

In the UK, supermarkets have introduced a limit of three tomatoes per customer. You can buy up to two peppers in the Netherlands. In Germany, customers complain about the prices of cucumbers, while in Spain, farmers patrol the fields at night against fruit and vegetable thieves. There is a lot of talk about the “onion crisis” in Slovakia.

The shortage of vegetables and fruit has hit the UK. Four UK supermarket chains have introduced restrictions on the sale of certain fruit and vegetables. In the Asda chain, one person could buy a maximum of three pieces of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and three packages of raspberries, while in Morrisons the restrictions concerned cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers – two pieces per customer. Aldi and Tesco decided to take a similar step – in both they limited the sale of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to three per person.

As experts point out, shortages in the Islands are mainly the result of extreme weather events – exceptionally low temperatures in southern Spain and flooding in Morocco, where products are mostly imported – which affected the harvest, as well as high energy prices, which resulted in reduced production in greenhouses.

The problem of costs is also highlighted by the Spanish daily “El Mundo”, because vegetables are grown in greenhouses powered by gas, and farmers save energy due to rising costs. Added to this were the unfavorable climatic conditions in agricultural southern Spain – a warm start to winter and a cold last few weeks, which resulted in higher prices at source. In the province of Almeria, sales of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers fell by 21-25%. compared to last year.

“Currently, the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in Germany is secured,” a spokeswoman from the German Ministry of Agriculture told the Rheinische Post newspaper in the context of empty shelves in the UK. However, she acknowledged that some fruits and vegetables have gone up significantly, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, as well as tangerines and clementines. The reason for the “supply shortfall”, according to the ministries, is mainly due to the cold weather in the main growing areas in Italy and Spain, but also limited harvests in Morocco and Turkey.

Customers in Germany complain especially about the price of cucumbers. In the summary of last year, the Federal Statistical Office stated that consumers had to pay for vegetables by 10.7 percent in 2022. more than a year earlier, and the prices of cucumbers (by 26.2 percent) and tomatoes (by 16.9 percent) increased significantly.

In Sweden, the media reported that in this year for the first time there was a situation where in border towns it was Swedes who bought vegetables in Norway, and not vice versa, as is usually the case, due to the higher prices of Norwegian food.

According to statistics from the Swedish Statistical Office, in the last two months alone, the prices of leeks have increased by 37%, cucumbers by 14%, and tomatoes and carrots by 11%. Experts argue that this is due to the weather in southern Europe and Morocco, from where vegetables and fruits are imported to cold Scandinavia, and additionally, some Swedish producers have given up or limited greenhouse cultivation due to high energy prices.

Also in the Netherlands, the prices of vegetables and fruits have increased sharply. A significant part of vegetables such as cauliflowers, broccoli, lettuces, tomatoes come from Spain at this time of year, where the harvest is smaller than expected. This leads to 25 to 50 percent higher prices. – according to the trade ociation GroentenFruit Huis. For this reason, some stores have set a limit of a maximum of two peppers per customer.

Rising energy costs have forced Dutch tomato growers who grow plants under lamps to turn off more than 90% of their electricity. of them this winter. However, according to industry group Glastuinbouw Nederland, better weather, longer daylight hours and lower energy prices have allowed Dutch greenhouses to resume full operation ahead of next month’s harvest. This should ease the deficit that is emptying supermarket shelves across Europe.

In Hungary, the recent increase in fruit and vegetable prices is ociated with the highest inflation in almost 30 years (the highest in the EU since November). In February, the inflation rate was 25.4 percent, with food prices increasing by 43.3 percent compared to February 2022. It is estimated that due to the prices, Hungarians eat 10-15 percent. less fruit and vegetables than last year.

Although VAT has been reduced on some food products, the 27% rate still applies to fruit and vegetables. This makes almost all fruits and vegetables more expensive than in neighboring countries. As reported by the Telex portal, in the Spar supermarket chain, the price of a fruit salad (blueberry and strawberry) cost PLN 16.4 thousand. forints (approx. PLN 203) per kilogram.

In Portugal, trade experts admit that the main reason for the increase in fruit and vegetable prices was the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which led to higher inflation. “If we compare the value of fruit and vegetable prices on February 23, 2022, i.e. on the eve of the war in Ukraine, with the prices on March 1, 2023, we will see that the average basket of these products increased in value by 34.1 percent.” – estimates the consumer defense organization Deco Proteste.

Among the vegetables and fruits sold in Portuguese stores, the largest increase in prices was recorded for tomatoes. Their price has increased by more than 100% compared to the previous year. Maria Silva, co-owner of a farm near Castelo Branco, in the east of the country, told PAP that the high price of tomatoes is, among others, the effect of the increase in energy, water and labor costs.

In the Czech Republic, wholesale prices of vegetables imported in the Czech Republic increased by several dozen percent in the first weeks of 2023, according to data from the State Agricultural Intervention Fund. According to the Vegetable Union of Bohemia and Moravia (ZUCzM), the increase in the prices of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, which accelerated significantly at the beginning of this year, is related to the situation on the European market.

There is a shortage of onions in Slovakia. Farmers believe the ‘onion crisis’, coupled with higher prices, will last until the new harvest. Onion prices have increased by 20% year-on-year. According to the Slovak Chamber of Agriculture and Food (SPPK), the shortage of vegetables, including onions, is due to geopolitical tensions and unfavorable weather related to floods in Pakistan, frost in Central Asia and drought in North Africa. Record high prices in Slovakia recorded for peppers. Some species cost 7 euros per kilogram (33 zlotys).

The consumer price index in Estonia increased by 17.6% in February. compared to the same month of 2022, which is mainly due to jumps in food prices. In this period, the prices of onions increased by 59 percent, tomatoes and cabbage – 17 percent, carrots – less than 20 percent, and apples – 23 percent. in the case of native varieties and 10 percent. for imported fruit. The reason for the increase in prices – including fruit and vegetables – is attributed to the increase in energy prices, which are now starting to fall slowly.

In Latvia, fruit prices in January this year increased by 20 percent. compared to the same month of the previous year, and vegetable prices by 13.4 percent. The largest increase concerns potatoes, which have increased by 50 percent. Poor harvests are also cited as a reason.

In Italy, in the second part of 2022, increases in the prices of vegetables and fruits were recorded, reaching an average of several percent, which resulted from a significant increase in energy prices. At the beginning of this year Along with lower electricity and gas prices, inflation also fell from over 11.5% to up to 10 percent – reported at the end of February the statistical institute Istat. Recently, there has also been a gradual decrease in the prices of vegetables and fruits. According to the agricultural union Coldiretti, these prices, until recently considered record-breaking, have so far fallen slightly. (PAP)

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