Fruit prices will remain high for years
Fatima Trending2021.October 05.
Labour shortages, old trees, old farmers and frost damage are making fruit growing difficult, and prices are going up.
The adverse effects of climate change and labour shortages have dramatically reduced the profitability of fruit plantations over the past decade. Fruit growing has reached a critical juncture: areas under fruit are set to decline significantly, intensive plantations are set to spread and fruit prices are set to rise sharply in the coming years, according to an analysis by Agroinform.hu.
Peach production in the country is under threat
Fruit trees are the first victims of climate change in agriculture, with mild winters not only helping pests to overwinter en masse, but also making them more vulnerable to frost through early bud swelling and bud break. Severe frost damage in orchards now occurs almost every year. In an increasing number of places, virtually the entire crop has been frozen for years. Ferenc Apáti, President of FruitVeb, the Hungarian Fruit and Vegetable Interbranch Organisation and Product Council, stressed in the analysis that apricots and peaches in particular are at increased risk of frost.
If the next spring or two brings similar weather conditions, up to half of the peach orchards could be affected, which is no small area, as 12 percent of the country’s orchards are devoted to apricots or peaches.
In addition to climate change, labour shortages are the main threat to fruit growing. Each year, around 20 percent of the fruit crop is lost solely due to a lack of sufficient manual labour. Mechanical harvesting is only an option for fruit harvested for industrial purposes, while fresh market fruit cannot be harvested by machine. However, fruit for industrial use can only be sold at a much lower price, and the income from it cannot be used for efficient, intensive cultivation.
Old trees, old farmers
Longer-term prospects for fruit production are further hampered by the fact that a significant proportion of domestic plantations are made up of old trees: 41% are at least 15 years old. Of the apple orchards, which make up 37% of the domestic orchards, 50% are over 15 years old, but 47% of cherry trees and 43% of pear trees are also over 15 years old. Older plantations do not allow intensive farming: only 23% of apple orchards can be considered modern plantations.
he analysis also shows that, according to the KSH, even years ago, one third of orchards were managed by farmers over 60 years old. The proportion of people over 65 was as high as 20 percent. And after a generational change, younger people often decide to wind up the activity. As a result of these factors, Agroinform. hu concludes that the size of fruit-growing areas will suffer a significant decline of up to 20 percent in the next 4-5 years.
The establishment of intensive plantations requires significant investment, and the price of modern technology must be reflected in the price of fruit. Labour shortages also increase costs, which must be reflected in prices. All in all, the era of cheap fruit seems to be coming to an end.