The prices of apples in Czech stores are the lowest in two years in a year-on-year comparison. This is entirely out of line with the significant rise in food prices over the past year.
The reason for the decrease in prices is the overcrowding of the market with Polish apples, which cannot be exported to the East due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Czech fruit growers are planning to cut down more orchards because of low prices and the loss of production, Martin Ludvík, chairman of the Czech Fruit Growers’ Union, said. Apples are the most consumed fruit in the Czech Republic.
According to the Czech Statistical Office, the average price of a kilogram of apples in Czech shops in October was CZK 35.42, down two percent year-on-year. Compared to October 2020, it was ten percent lower. Apples are currently selling for CZK 15 to 20 per kilogram in sales.
According to the CSO, the average price of apples from farmers fell by 12 percent year-on-year to CZK 13.1 per kilogram in October. According to the statistics, the average cost of food in shops in October was 25.1 percent cent year-on-year, while overall inflation was 15.1 percent.
A vicious circle
“The Russian market was already closed to Polish apples on paper in 2014, but the real barrier to trade was only the war. On top of that, trade with Belarus was also closed,” Ludwik said. Polish apples, which used to end up overwhelmingly in the East, remain on the European market, Ludwik noted, which is being exploited by supermarket chains to put pressure on prices. With an annual harvest of around 4.5 million metric tons, Poland is the largest apple producer in Europe. The Czech harvest is expected to be over 130,000 metric tons this year.
Ludvík said that with the surplus of apples on the market, supermarket chains are unwilling to pay fruit growers prices that cover the increased production costs. “It’s a vicious circle that nobody is willing to solve,” Ludvík said. According to the Fruit Growers’ Union, he pointed out that there is no single European market for apples because Western European countries will not allow Polish apples their needs.
A tenth of the orchards are being raked up
According to the chairman of the fruit growers ‘ union, Czech apple growers are now facing huge losses due to low prices and the increasingly expensive energy needed to store apples throughout the marketing season until next summer. According to Ludwig, the first result of the uncertainty is that part of the apple crop was not harvested this year. “At the same time, orchard decline will continue to accelerate,” Ludwig said.
This year, the area of all intensive orchards is down six percent year-on-year to 12,225 hectares from 13,047 hectares last year. “We expect at least a tenth of the orchards to be cut down over the winter, so by spring 2023, and there will be around 11,000 hectares of orchards in the Czech Republic. New plantings are at the lowest level in modern history,” Ludvík said. In 1989, there were 23,000 hectares of orchards in the Czech Republic.
This year, apple growers have received state aid of CZK 100 million, with applicants receiving less than CZK 18,000 per hectare. Ludvík said this compensation covered the increased storage costs from the 2021 harvest and did nothing to address the sector’s current problems.