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Boerenbond: Growers still using last vestige of 'cheap' gas, but half of all contracts end by the end of the year

As a net electricity producer, Flemish agriculture and horticulture, particularly greenhouse horticulture, play an important social role. Advocacy group Boerenbond points this out. A new cry for help from the organization reached all the newspapers. Boerenbond president Lode Ceyssens himself went to visit ornamental grower Wimceco in Boechout and vegetable grower Johan Van Bulck in Putte.

A recent Boerenbond member survey showed that many greenhouse growers are currently still relying on viable gas prices thanks to previously agreed fixed contracts. More than half of greenhouse growers' gas contracts expire at the end of this year. At that point, the impact of the crisis will be many times greater.

Adapted crop, hardly any tomatoes
The same survey shows that growers will take steps as a result of the energy crisis. A whole number of growers say they will grow at lower temperatures or even just make sure the greenhouse remains frost-free. About 25% of farms are considering temporarily stopping and planting later or leaving (parts of) the greenhouse empty, resulting in less production. Crops under lights (like tomatoes) are expected to be almost non-existent this winter.

The latter news was picked up by many media outlets. Newspapers tumbled over each other to announce that there are going to be virtually no Belgian tomatoes this winter. Het Nieuwsblad says there will not even be any Belgian tomatoes at Delhaize this winter. De Tijd also dwells on the tomato shortage. The newspaper spoke to the aforementioned grower Johan.

There are also growers who indicate to Boerenbond that they will cease their business activities due to exploding energy costs. This could have far-reaching consequences, not only for food production, with local produce losing shelf space, but also for employment and jobs.

Today, some 4,200 permanent employees work in greenhouse farming, mainly in vegetable production. If a number of companies do not start up or only partially start up next year, an estimated 25% - 30% of permanent workers could become temporarily unemployed, and a possible layoff threatens 10% to 15% of permanent employees in the greenhouse horticulture sector, Boerenbond calculates.

630,000 families
So growers are taking drastic measures to control energy bills. A scaling back of activity in horticulture creates major effects on local energy production and on the sector's role in providing a balance on the electricity grid.

Flemish greenhouse farmers are major energy producers. Glasshouse horticulture supplies some 630,000 families with energy, which is more families than there are in the entire province of East Flanders. "Or put another way, Flemish greenhouse horticulture today produces as much energy as one nuclear power plant," he said.

"In addition to Doel 3 (one of two nuclear power plants in Belgium), another important energy producer is therefore at risk of disappearing if our horticulturists cannot keep their heads above water. Specifically, this could lead to the loss of almost 1/3 of this energy or the energy production for 200,000 families," said Boerenbond president Lode Ceyssens during the visit to some greenhouse farms.
"Therefore, we ask the authorities to support these companies in every possible way so that they do not have to (temporarily) cease operations."

Boerenbond urges the government to issue a tender very soon in which companies that voluntarily use less natural gas will be compensated for this. For growers, it is essential to know as soon as possible whether such a tender will be issued, as this will be decisive in deciding whether or not to plant new crops in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Boerenbond

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