Owner of apple orchards: The Czech apple is disappearing, checks on the origin of apples would help

Owner of apple orchards: The Czech apple is disappearing, checks on the origin of apples would help

Owner of apple orchards: Czech apple is disappearing, controls on the origin of apples would help

Tuchoraz orchards in Cologne, February 28, 2023. The picture shows the preparation of apples before shipment.

Tuchoraz (Kolín Region) – Due to the low purchase price of apples and rising costs, one of the largest Czech apple growers in Tuchoraz in the Kolín Region stopped all investments. Sady Tuchoraz and the partner distribution cooperative Bohemia Apple expect a zero economic result for last year. Company owner Sady Tuchoraz and chairman of Bohemia Apple cooperative Robert Vyšata told ČTK.

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Owner of apple orchards: Czech apple is disappearing, checks on the origin of apples would help

Owner of apple orchards: Czech apple is disappearing, checks on the origin of apples would help

Owner of apple orchards: Czech apple is disappearing, checks on the origin of apples would help

According to the information in the commercial register, Tuchoraz Sets achieved a profit of 45 million crowns in the previous economic period, the Bohemia Apple cooperative over 12 million crowns. The prices at which retail chains buy apples today are determined by Polish growers who lost the Russian market due to the war in Ukraine. Currently, they have fallen to an average of 15 crowns per kilogram, which does not cover the ever-increasing costs. It is an unequal battle and it will probably destroy most Czech growers, said Vyšata.

“The Czech apple and Czech orchards are really disappearing and soon there will be nothing at all from fruit growing in the Czech Republic, all the smaller growers around us are gradually closing down. It is easier for us to fight, precisely because we are bigger and we take care of most things completely independently. We are not planning to cut down yet, but I'm not at all surprised that others are forced to do it, the situation is really very bad. At the same time, we are talking about an extra five crowns per kilogram that would help Czech orchardists,” said Vyšata, who started building orchards 30 years ago.

< p>Today, they grow apple trees in and around Tuchorazi on 220 hectares of land, last year they harvested 15,000 tons of apples, mostly of consumer quality. In recent years, according to Vyšata, the annual harvest has been between 12,000 and 15,000 tons, and the harvest is mainly affected by spring frosts. “We can already defend ourselves quite effectively against bad weather, such as hail or drought, but this does not apply to frost,” he said. According to him, last year's harvest did not suffer from frost. Thanks to modern storage halls and technology, they store the apples all year round and gradually ship them out.

100,000 to 130,000 tons of apples are grown in the whole of the Czech Republic every year, and self-providers from their own gardens are also included in the statistics. Roughly 60,000 tons of table apples are imported. “The problem is a large and ever-increasing supply from Poland, but constant demand, and apples are the only agricultural product where the price has fallen over the last two years,” said Vyšata. According to him, chains determine prices on a weekly basis. Even last year it was approximately 20 crowns per kilogram without VAT, today it is around 15 crowns. “At the same time, the usual purchase price for growers in Western Europe is one euro, i.e. 25 crowns,” added Vyšata. According to him, the price policy of chains is given and cannot be changed. However, according to him, Czech apples could be saved by a better system of controlling the origin of apples. “Czechs would like to pay a few crowns more for Czech apples. It would help if Czech apples could be sold as Czech, but it is very diluted with Polish ones and the customer often does not know what exactly he is buying, I see only one way here,” he said. /p>

Orchard workers in Tuchorazi are currently carrying out winter pruning. “About 70 people work on it all winter, most of the work in fruit growing will never be replaced by machines,” said Vyšata. Sady and the distribution company have 157 permanent employees, dozens of them are Ukrainians. “They were key for us even before the war, we tried to help the newcomers after the war with housing,” added Vyšata.

In recent years, the company has invested significantly, for example, in rebuilding old farm buildings into modern storage halls. The reconstruction of a packaging plant with a modern sorting line cost about 100 million two years ago. Employees from it ship apples to chains every day, sometimes up to 50 trucks a week. “It wouldn't work without big investments, but now of course they are burdening us because we are repaying high loans, and that is the biggest difference between us and Poland, where there was general investment support of up to 75 percent, but they also have other concessions. Polish producers can unfortunately, it is very difficult to compete due to the unequal conditions on the common European market,” added Vyšata.

According to Vyšata, the increase in energy prices did not affect the company as much as other growers. “Fortunately, we have fixed prices until the middle of 2024, so it is roughly a thirty percent increase year-on-year, but the prices of fertilizers went up twice as much, by half the price of packaging materials,” he said.

According to data from the Czech Statistical Office, the fruit was last year, the only agricultural commodity with a price drop. The prices of all agricultural producers rose by 32 percent on average last year.