Monika Nebeská, the new president of the Vegetable Union of Bohemia and Moravia, at a press conference on the current situation of fruit and vegetable growers and the outlook for this year. March 16, 2023, Prague.
Prague – The area on which farmers grow vegetables will decrease by five percent this year from last year's more than 11,600 hectares. Monika Nebeská, chairwoman of the Vegetable Union of Bohemia and Moravia, told journalists today. She stated that farmers have difficulty getting an adequate price for their produce. According to the Union, this will lead to greater dependence on imports from abroad. This year, for example, growers have stocks of about 2,000 tons of onions, and around 40,000 tons will need to be imported for the next harvest at the turn of June and July. The Fruit Union of the Czech Republic has also been drawing attention to the low purchase prices of its production for a long time.
Nebeská stated that the Czech Republic is dependent on vegetable imports for roughly two-thirds, which leads to the fact that prices are determined by imports and Czech farmers have minimal influence on them. According to Nebeská, the cultivation restrictions are indicated by the members of the union. “It's going to hit small and medium-sized farms,” she said. She noted that in 2002, vegetables were grown on almost 18,000 hectares, in 2022, according to data from the Czech Statistical Office (CSO), it was 11,678 hectares.
According to Nebeská, Czech farmers know how to grow vegetables well. “Farmers' prices are stagnant and traders' prices are rising,” she said. According to her, the state should actively support investments in the construction of warehouses, which would make it possible to preserve much more root vegetables and farmers could grow vegetables on a larger area. “The consumer could buy a larger amount of Czech onions throughout the year,” she said.
Nebeská also pointed to WHO recommendations, which state that every person should eat 400 grams of fresh vegetables and fruits daily. This corresponds to 146 kilograms per year and 1.5 million tons in the entire Czech Republic. “The reality is that it will grow approximately 270,000 tons of vegetables, 140,000 tons of fruit,” she added.
The chairman of the fruit union, Martin Ludvík, drew attention to the decrease in the area of fruit orchards today. Last year fruit growers harvested 12,000 hectares, this year the area of orchards should decrease by about a tenth, he said. “It wouldn't be such bad news if we could replace it with new orchards, but unfortunately that's not happening because fruit growers have practically stopped investing in the industry,” he said.
Growers are unable to compete with imported fruit, he said is cheaper, and they face increased costs. The Union has previously pointed out that the purchase price of apples is reduced by imports mainly from Poland, from where the production was previously exported to Russia. According to Ludvík, fruit growers also reduce production in order to become independent from purchasing from food chains, as the prices set by traders are unprofitable for them. Fruit growers did not even harvest part of last year's harvest due to low purchase prices.
According to Ludvík, the basis of fruit production in the Czech Republic is apples, which account for about 80 percent of growers' income. “The Fruit Union estimates a loss of four crowns for each kilogram of apples, which translates to a total loss of 250 million crowns for apple growers last year,” said Ludvík. In order to ease the situation for growers, the state should introduce a lower VAT rate on fruits and vegetables, he added.