Dutch cherry growers face a dramatic year with harvests halved due to cold, wet spring

Cherry growers in the Netherlands are experiencing a dramatic year due to the cold and wet spring. They report that the harvest yields are down to nearly half compared to 2022, which has led to an increase in cherry prices. The heavy rainfalls that have recently occurred are also causing worries about the crops of berries and potatoes.

“2023 is one of the worst years in recent memory,” stated Johan Sonneveld of the industry consulting firm, Fruitconsult, commenting on the state of the cherry harvest. Although there are minor regional variances, Sonneveld pointed out that “in Betuwe, where the majority of cherry growers are located, the harvest volumes are down by 50 to 60 percent.” This situation has been confirmed by Erik Vernooij, a cherry grower from De Kersenhut in Cothen, located in the province of Utrecht. Owning 16 hectares of cherry trees, Vernooij said, “My father has been in this business for 45 years, and he has never experienced anything like this.”

Erik Vernooij mainly attributes the current problems to the severe frost in March. Most cherry trees are now protected and were not significantly harmed by the summer rain, but berry crops, which are currently being harvested, have suffered from the rain. Vernooij pointed out that “berries must be picked dry. That is practically impossible at the moment, but they still have to be picked.”

Earlier reports suggested the apple harvest would be around 30 percent less than usual. Apart from the unfavorable spring weather, apple growers have struggled with the apple blossom beetle. “This insect has the potential to ravage an entire orchard,” warned Ron Mulders, chairman of the Dutch Fruit Growers Organization (NFO). However, he noted that it was too early to raise the alarm. “The harvest for apples and pears won’t begin until next month.”

According to Tineke de Vries, chairman of the crop farming division at LTO Nederland, the crop farming sector is also facing uncertain months. “The winter wheat should have been harvested by now, but incessant rain has made that impossible. Storm Polly, which hit the country early last month, already partially flattened the wheat crops. Also, we see a lot of sprouting in the summer barley, causing the grain within the ear to germinate.” De Vries remains cautious about making predictions. “Much depends on what happens with the potatoes and onions. They determine the vast majority of the revenues.”

Potatoes suffered greatly during the drought in June. “But when the rain showers started, the plants improved a lot. Onions were sown late and also suffered a lot from the drought,” explained De Vries.

This situation underscores once again that the government’s proposed “calendar farming” is not working, according to De Vries. “Potatoes must be harvested by August 31 according to the new policy. If the weather doesn’t improve in the coming weeks, that will be difficult,” she concluded.

Reporting by ANP

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