How big is the cucumber industry

“The market for cucumbers is getting tight.” This is what the Federal Association of the Fruit, Vegetable and Potato Processing Industry (BOGK) in Bonn points out. "We are in an extraordinary situation," says Christoph Freitag, managing director of BOGK. “We expect a significant shortage of the supply of pickling cucumbers that our contract farmers deliver. At the same time, the demand from customers in the food retail sector is increasing. "

The manufacturers of pickled cucumbers, gherkins and cucumber sticks traditionally mainly process local raw materials from regional contract farming. But the corona crisis makes growing conditions more difficult. In order to comply with hygiene and distance regulations, so many harvest workers are no longer allowed to work in one field at the same time. This means that the harvest takes longer and becomes more expensive.

At the same time, the number of foreign seasonal workers usually available is falling. For the cucumber harvest alone, German agriculture needs around 60,000 seasonal workers. For the whole of German agriculture, however, only 80,000 are allowed to enter in the months of April and May 2020. Accordingly, the farmers have already planted less. From this it can already be seen that only 70% of the required quantities can be harvested.

On the other hand, the industry expects a further increase in demand in retail. Because by closing the catering trade, consumers are buying more for home. Even today, manufacturers can hardly keep up with supplying retailers. In March and April, weekly sales in the industry were almost three times as high as in 2019, explains the BOGK. “The warehouses are empty,” says Freitag. "It will be tight until the new harvest". It becomes difficult, especially with small assortments. Gherkins and small pickled cucumbers - up to 9 cm - are the best sellers in the market. But harvesting the small fruits is particularly labor-intensive. The most coveted product of all things will therefore be the most difficult to get hold of in the coming season.

Finally, there is another influencing factor on consumer prices: The precautions for the safety of employees and products must currently be implemented much more conscientiously than the already high standards in the vegetable processing industry prescribe. The special requirements in the area of ​​personnel, hygiene and accommodation to protect against infection with the Sars-CoV-2 virus also increase the cost pressure for food processing companies.