Rising costs may halt European vegetable harvests

STORY: Emmanuel Lefebvre has farmed endives in northern France for 32 years.

But he says this year there may be little point in continuing.

Like other farmers in Europe, he has seen his energy costs soar.

What cost him around 120,000 dollars in 2021, has rocketed to almost 1 million - largely due to refrigeration costs.

"As it stands, our energy costs will be multiplied by 10 if the price rises continue. It will no longer be bearable in terms of our production. Today, we are really in a total impasse, and we really wonder if we will harvest what is in the fields this winter."

And he’s not alone.

With the European Union highly dependent on Russian gas, energy prices have soared due to sanctions.

As a result, vegetable farming has become so expensive in Europe, that farmers across the continent are considering halting output.

The impact is felt most steeply in more northerly parts of Europe, where greenhouses need to be heated.

That means supermarkets could be forced to source more supplies from warmer countries such as Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.

Endives - of which France is the world’s biggest producer - are among the most at risk, as they need a lot of electricity all through the production chain.

Lefebvre says, in terms of energy consumption, endive producers have no other solutions.

The crop accounts for more than 4,000 jobs in northern France.

According to Stephane Jacquet, the incoming president of France’s association of endive producers, halting production would have an “earthquake” impact on employment in the region.

"We know well that we have to save on energy, find new energy sources, they are aware of that. They're ready to play their part, but not by multiplying their bills tenfold. That's inconceivable."