Why are vegetables so expensive? Greenhouse stocks are lower due to energy prices

Vegetables and fruit in the Czech Republic have become more expensive recently. One of the main reasons for this is the current winter season when the availability of some varieties is not as great as in the warmer months of the year. This leads to a specific reduction in supply and, therefore, higher prices in the shops.

According to the representatives of fruit and vegetable growers, the situation is compounded by the fact that stocks in the Czech Republic are smaller than usual because growers have reduced their production due to expensive energy prices.

The omnipresent high inflation in the Czech Republic is strongly reflected in food prices. Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in vegetables and fruit. According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, in January, vegetable prices rose 7.3 percent month-on-month, and in the case of fruit, by 9.8 percent.

According to the Vegetable Growers’ Union of Bohemia and Moravia, the rising prices reflect the current situation in the common European market, which is influenced by several factors. One of them is the usual seasonal trend, whereby the cost of storing vegetables in winter is reflected in prices, while at the same time, their availability is limited. For example, salad cucumbers, peppers, and vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli are more expensive each year at the end of winter.

This year, however, other adverse circumstances have also been added: the energy crisis, which has led to a multiplication of the price of agricultural inputs, and the increase in interest rates, which has made credit more expensive.

“Fearing extreme energy prices, many growers opted for direct sales instead of stocking vegetables in the fall. In the case of production from greenhouses, operators then significantly reduced or completely suspended production for the winter months. This is currently resulting in lower stocks and a shortage of fresh fruit vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers) on the market,” explained the Vegetable Growers’ Union in its opinion on high vegetable prices.

According to Martin Ludvík, chairman of the Fruit Growers’ Union of the Czech Republic, the Czech Republic is dependent on imports of vegetables and fruit so that it can grow. Self-sufficiency is, therefore, only between 30 and 50 percent, he told Novinky. “There is a lack of support for growers and questioning of self-sufficiency by many governments. It is not about 100 percent self-sufficiency, but a certain level of security just in case there is a shortfall in production due to crop failure or other circumstances,” he said.

Vegetables don’t pay as much

He also sees a problem with supermarket chains that want to buy as cheaply as possible, which does not pay off for farmers, so they prefer to grow more economically attractive crops such as grain or rape. This is also why domestic production is declining, which will naturally lead to increased imports from, for example, cheap Poland.

Improvement in spring

Alice Kouřilová, a spokesperson for the vegetable growers, pointed out in her reply to Novinky that Czech growers lack warehouses to be more self-sufficient. “If they have more of them, they can store more in the autumn. During the winter, we will be less dependent on imports of those species that we successfully grow in our country and that are traditionally in demand (onions, cabbage, root species). Another help for greengrocers could be to reduce the labor cost, for example, by reducing the levies for seasonal workers,” she said.

Vegetable growers expect prices to stabilize at a more acceptable level for most staple vegetables as the new harvest starts in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, and Portugal). “However, we do not expect a significant change until the main harvest season arrives during the summer for field vegetables. For covered areas, we expect a significant improvement in the situation in the spring months,” the union said.