News - June 8, 2011

Four cents a cucumber

A few horticulturalists will go bankrupt as a result of the EHEC affair in Germany, predicts the LEI. A market gardener currently gets between 4 and 9 cents per cucumber on the auction floors.

It is not just cucumber growers who are in trouble because of the link made between the deadly EHEC bacteria in Germany and cucumbers. Growers of lettuce, tomatoes and bell peppers are also noticing a drop in demand for salad vegetables in Germany. And Germany is the biggest market for Dutch horticulturalists.

The drop in demand is causing losses of 30 million euros a week, according to calculations by the Rabobank. If does not quickly become clear what the source of the EHEC bacteria is, and what role vegetables play in the infection, a number of cucumber companies will go bankrupt, predicts the agricultural economics institute LEI.

Cucumber companies have not yet recovered from the turnover crisis of recent years. In 2007, the companies had a negative income of 17,800 euros, says the LEI. These losses increased in the ensuing years to 88,000 to 106,000 euros. So the companies can end up in financial difficulties quite quickly.

Because of falling demand from Germany, cucumbers are being destroyed, put into bio-fermenters or added to the glut on the markets of other European countries. The market gardeners are getting 4 to 9 cents per cucumber at the auction at Mechel, which is well below cost price. The Dutch government has made agreements with the sector on buying up cucumbers, at a price of 12 cents apiece. And one kilo of overripe tomatoes fetches compensation of 7.2 cents.