"First half of the year one of the worst in years for cucumber growers"

How did the horticultural sector fare in the first half of 2023? René Boots of ABAB does a tour of the 'fields.' In doing so, he naturally comes across the energy crisis and inflation, although he also sees positives. "High energy prices set off a steep decline, and so did prices for crop protection products and fertilizers, among others. In addition, the general price structure was not wrong."

Greenhouse vegetables
Due to the developments in the energy market, the area of tomatoes grown under light also decreased in 2023. This created a lower supply, so prices were fine compared to last year until the beginning of May. In May, the 'usual' price drop set into similar levels in recent years.

Cucumbers also had a good start to the new season, with prices even better than in previous years. Here there was an even bigger drop in the area using lighting than for tomatoes. From the end of March/beginning of April, however, this changed. A larger area came into production because growers who had previously grown with lights now also started producing later. In addition, the area under production expanded because some tomato growers switched (once only) to cucumber production due to virus pressure. This, combined with rapidly improving weather conditions, resulted in (too) much production.

From the end of June, prices clearly recovered. This makes the first half of the year one of the worst in years for cucumber growers. It would be nice if the current higher price level could be maintained in the important production months of July, August, and September.

In contrast to last year, peppers enjoyed fine pricing, with production lagging behind on average. This stalled at the end of June, causing prices to fall way back. However, the first half of the year was fine on average.

Aubergines also had a fine first half of the year. Prices flattened out in mid-April, only to recover relatively quickly in May. In June, prices leveled off again, similar to other greenhouse vegetables, but still better than in the same period in the past two years.

Finally, in greenhouse strawberries, although there was reasonable to good price formation, regular crops did not achieve their usual production.

Floriculture (under glass)
Several cut flower entrepreneurs were looking for an alternative strategy last year because of high energy prices. A common option was to (partially) shut down the business. This resulted in good flower prices in spring and especially around the various (European) holidays. From May onwards, there was sufficient supply again, and pricing was moderate to date. The summer period has historically always been a quiet one.

For both green and flowering houseplants, rising prices are coming to an end after several years. Prices have stabilized (both day trade and auction). Sales of green plants continue to run fairly well in Europe, with those of flowering plants stabilized.

While phalaenopsis cultivation was largely halted last year due to high energy prices, calm has now slowly returned. The number of hectares has been sharply reduced, leaving supply and demand in reasonable balance.

Due to the cold and dark spring, the cultivation of bedding and spring plants got off to a late start. On the other hand, trade was not yet optimal either, so there was initially a nice balance with low sales at reasonable prices. In recent weeks, sales have been excellent due to the nice weather.

Tree nursery
In tree nurseries, clear differences are emerging between the various product groups. Visually attractive trade (trade via garden centers, which also struggled during this period) was disappointing due to the moderate spring weather. Sales of tree nursery products with root balls lagged behind.

Both avenue trees and forest and hedge plants were characterized by a good spring. Things like having water available, sufficient qualified staff, and the use of active sales will make a stronger difference between the various companies in the coming period.

René also discusses the field vegetables, mushroom/mushroom, and fruit sectors. Read more here.

For more information:
René Boots
ABAB Accountants and Advisors

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