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27 January 2023

Fruit growers let apples and pears rot, picking and cooling too expensive

Fruit growers let apples and pears rot, picking and cooling too expensive

Source: Omroep Gelderland.

Author: Annemieke Schakelaar.

TOLKAMER (NL) - Several fruit growers in Gelderland (NL) say it hardly pays to pick the last apples and pears. Prices for the fruit are low and the costs of picking and cold storage are very high. Some growers even choose to let the fruit rot then, because it is cheaper.

"Normally I always pick all the apples, but if it's just going to cost me money now, I'll leave them hanging," says fruit grower Ferdinand van Schip from his orchard in Tolkamer.

"The market is bad; it's hard for me to sell them, and having them picked and stored in cold storage is extremely expensive with the current prices for energy and labor. We have picked all the plots so far, but really need to see if it pays to pick the rest as well," he continues.

Cheaper to let it hang

"We hear that from more growers," says Bert de Haan, who, in addition to being a fruit grower in Kerk-Avezaath (NL), is also a board member of the Dutch Fruit Growers Organization (NFO). According to him, this is due to an accumulation of problems.

"Due to the loss of the large Russian sales market, Polish apple growers can no longer sell their fruit there. They now sell it in the Netherlands and surrounding countries for much lower prices than Dutch fruit. So we can no longer sell it. Add to that high energy prices and expensive labor and it quickly becomes cheaper to leave the fruit hanging than to harvest it," he explains.

Yet fruit grower Erik van Haarlem from Buurmalsen does not choose to do that. "No, leaving the apples hanging depletes the trees more and then you get a lot of rotting apples on the ground which attracts a lot of pests. But sales are very difficult. Apple prices are under tremendous pressure. I really worry a lot about the rising cost of energy and labor. We've really been hit hard by the situation in Ukraine."

Never been so insecure before

Bert de Haan confirms that. "I still have 450 tons of pears in the cooler myself. Fortunately, the refrigeration runs on solar panels. I hope I can still sell them, but otherwise they go into syrup. Then I get 7 cents per kilo for it; that doesn't cover the costs."

At the Dutch Fruit Growers Organization, he says, they are getting more and more disturbing phone calls from growers who are really struggling and worried about the future. "One thing is certain: it has never been so uncertain."

Source: Omroep Gelderland.

Author: Annemieke Schakelaar.