Higher prices and shortages are likely for fruit and vegetables and other produce from the glasshouses of Europe, where the heat has been turned down because of the steep inflation in natural gas prices.
In particular, the supply of these crops is likely to fall from the Netherlands, where an estimated 2.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year (about 8% of the country’s consumption of the fuel) is needed to heat 25,000 acres of high-yielding glasshouses, which help to make the country the world’s second-largest exporter of food, by value.
As European gas prices increased 985% year-on-year, to a record high level in December, Dutch glasshouse owners turned down the heat needed to grow crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and flowers. Meanwhile, many British glasshouse growers didn’t go ahead with their normal January crop plantings, because of high gas prices, and the lack of workers.
At the other side of Europe, there are reports that about 70% of all Bulgarian greenhouses for vegetable production didn’t produce crops this winter due to high gas prices, leading to a lack of home-produced tomatoes and cucumbers on their domestic market. Greenhouse owners in some other EU countries have depended on state aid to continue production.
Across the English Channel, 60-70% of growers haven’t done their usual January planting in Hertfordshire’s Lea Valley, which has 370 acres of glasshouses and is known as London's Salad Bowl.
They produce about 75% of Britain’s cucumbers, sweet peppers, and aubergines, but they say the high gas price and the lack of workers made it too much of a gamble to plant in January.
A spokesperson said leaving the greenhouse empty also costs money, but they would probably lose more money if they plant.