"There had been talk earlier this year that for 2009 we would see 50ha to 60ha less in cucumber production," Nico Jongerius told the Cucumber Growers' Association (CGA) conference.
"But the recent rapid falls in energy prices make cucumbers more feasible again, so the predictions have changed. Perhaps we will see a fall of maybe 30ha."
However, he predicted that in the medium to longer term smaller growers would leave the industry, so the average production area per grower would increase. Quoting from a Rabobank survey of the Dutch greenhouse industry, he said 20 per cent of growers had required re-financing in 2008, while business continuity was in danger for seven per cent. He suggested that a fifth of growers would go out of production over the next five years.
"Cucumbers remain a commodity product and smaller growers are not able to earn enough to make the necessary investment to improve efficiency, particularly in energy technologies," he said.
But he told growers he believed it was possible to find ways to differentiate the product, particularly with environmental and local labelling.
- NFU chief horticulture adviser Philip Hudson said that light supplies of UK cucumbers in August had prompted a short-lived increase in prices. "But retailers react too slowly when prices should be going up and too quickly when they are coming down," he said.
He agreed that more could be done to promote growers' efforts to reduce energy consumption and the use of chemicals.