Rising gas prices threaten French tomato production

Multiplied by 10 in one year, the price per megawatt hour makes greenhouse tomato cultivation difficult, affecting sales prices.

The war in Ukraine also affects our tomato growers. In France, about 95% of locally produced tomatoes come from above-ground production, ie they are grown in large gas-fired greenhouses. An artificial process that allows production all year round, regardless of the season, but the ecological impact of which is disputed. With rising gas prices, greenhouse production is in jeopardy, forcing many producers to move or even throw away part of their plantation. At the end of the chain, the shelves are less stocked with French products, in favor of imports from Spain or Morocco.

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The conflict in Eastern Europe was not a trigger, but only exacerbated the already difficult situation for French tomato growers. Fairly stable for ten years, gas prices started to rise from the fourth quarter of 2021, putting pressure on production for the first time. †The price has long been between 15 and 30 euros per megawatt hour. At the end of 2021 we were on average at 80 euros, which was already difficult. In February, with the conflict, it rose to 220 euros, or 10 times the pricesays Christophe Rousse, president of Solarenn, a cooperative of Breton tomato growers. To sound the alarm, the latter compares this price increase with that of petrol: “it’s as if diesel suddenly went to 15 euros per liter

Signs need to narrow their margins.

Christophe Rousse, Chairman of Solarenn

Even if the price of gas has fallen to stabilization at around 90 euros per megawatt hour, many producers today are in the dark and have to sell at a loss. †Without action from major retailers we will be blocked, we would have to double the price of our products. Signs need to trim their margins» insists the president of Solarenn. These increases have a direct impact on consumers, who could see the price per kilo double and therefore turn to imported and cheaper products.

Faced with this wave, several producers have chosen to plant only half of their plants, others have discarded some of them. In any case, the Breton producers have decided to postpone their production by two months. But with more than one in two tomatoes being imported, French production is in fact at risk. Especially since with the summer and peak season for tomatoes approaching, growers are afraid that the shelves will be flooded, causing prices to collapse.

Strongly criticized for its environmental footprint, greenhouse production is generally championed by producer cooperatives, who claim to have created virtuous closed-circuit systems based on the production of electricity thanks to the heat of the motors of micro-power plants and the absorption of CO2 by the plants. †This system ensures temperature stability. When the tomato is not stressed by the temperature, the phytosanitary risk is almost niladds Christophe Rousse. The use of hydrogen could also be a solution, but”not earlier than 10 years‘ concludes the chairman of Solarenn.

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