The 2022 weather patterns negatively affected several major European lettuce producers, leaving the market without sufficient supply. The drought in France and the Netherlands left major production areas without water for irrigation purposes for the new cultivation of lettuce. In Spain, beside the drought, the already planted areas that were expected to be ready for September harvesting, were hit by hailstorms (Girona Area), leaving decimated fields of lettuce. In Greece, rains from the end of August until the first week of September created quality problems such as tip burn, mildew, aphid, and caterpillars, leaving the product inadequate for commercial use. This created a perfect storm, leaving the European lettuce market empty of romaine, lollo red/green, iceberg and frisee lettuce for the whole September. Lettuce prices are at sky high levels with market players in the sector desperately looking for alternative sources and postponing Autumn retail promotions for salads.
The 2022 Spanish broccoli campaign is still very challenging due to the recent heat waves suffered in the producing areas. The quantities available are very small and more than 70% are not suitable for long journeys, and must be sent to the domestic market. Thus, the export market is practically at a standstill. The W37 price is around USD 3.00/kg EXW, while the usual price this time of year is around USD 1.50-1.60/kg EXW.
Potato producers from the North of France, which is the main production region, report a catastrophic 2022 potato harvest. The drought and high temperatures of 2022 has heavily affected national production of France, the largest potato exporter globally. The lack of water stopped the development of the tubers which resulted in smaller caliber potatoes for this year’s harvest. The most recent estimates indicate a 20-30% loss in production which could result in a 1.5MMT total loss. Producers do not expect forthcoming rains or mild temperatures to reverse or remedy the situation. The market for french fries could suffer the most which could have far reaching consequences for the retail, restaurant, as well as fast food industries.
The start of the 2022 strawberry campaign in Italy was fruitful with a production of 382,536MT, which is an increase of 31.82% compared to May 2021. Fresh strawberries were sold at an average price of USD 1,90/kg EXW (wholesale price). Despite the initial success, the climate events of June and July have affected the final crop. The anticyclone Caronte invaded the Southern regions of Italy where temperatures reached 41 degrees Celsius, causing drought and burning strawberries in the field. Production of strawberries declined by 18% and prices rose to an average of USD 1,97/kg EXW.
The lettuce market in Spain has been critical since the end of July due to the heatwave that swept across Europe. Water makes up over 95% of lettuce, making it intolerable to sustained high temperatures. Large volumes of lettuce in Spain had to be harvested prematurely to avoid rotting as a result of the high temperatures. The product on the market in W33 barely reaches 3kg/box, when normally the minimum weight is around 5kg.
This situation has created a shortage in Spain with market players importing lettuce from other countries, like Poland, Italy or Germany, to cover demand. However, importers were not satisfied, because the quality of imported lettuce was not up to standard, most likely also due to the heat wave. Lettuce was trading at USD 10/box EXW (10 pieces per box), where the minimum price before the heatwave was nearly half at around USD 4.5-5/box
Italian watermelon imports from Morocco are declining due to the availability of quality domestic supply. Sicilian watermelons lead the market due to their high sugar content and flavour. Despite the demand for locally produced watermelons, imports from Greece are also increasing due to lower domestic production compared to previous years. In August 2022 Italian production amounted to 480,000MT on an area of 13,000 cultivated hectares against the 16,000 hectares planted in 2020.
The area under cultivation of mini and midi watermelons have also increased which reduces the unit production. Furthermore, hailstorms and prolonged drought affected the main productive areas, which are Lazio, Apulia, Sicily, and Lombardy further affecting production. In W34 watermelons are trading at USD 0.46/kg at wholesale while the average retail price is USD 0,65/kg.
Drought and scorching temperatures in Italy resulted in around 11% less tomatoes destined for the preparation of pulps, purées, sauces and concentrates for the 2022 season. Since the beginning of spring, climatic conditions have accelerated the ripening processes and put crops at risk, with the national production of tomato based products estimated to be 5.4MMT less in 2022. It is estimated that one in ten bottles of tomato puree will not be available for the 2022 season.