"In these countries, higher selling prices for a 'local-for-local' market segment are realised in comparison to imports from the Netherlands," he said. "The production cost of tomatoes in northern European countries is higher than in the Netherlands, mainly due to lower greenhouse tomato production per square metre and higher energy costs.
"The cost of selling the foreign-grown product is usually lower due to shorter transport distances, but this does not offset higher production costs. The local-for-local product has to generate a higher yield value in an expensive market segment."
Successful local production therefore depends on choices made on product distribution, types of tomatoes grown and transportation, he explained. "The higher price for local-for-local segment is related to product perception, for example, sustainable energy use, a residue-free product and impact on the local economy and employment."
The Netherlands already has some 1,800ha of hi-tech tomato production compared to "under 200ha" for the UK, he added, while in the Netherlands and Belgium, year-round growing is the norm. "Physical production (kilograms per square metre) in the Netherlands is generally higher than in other countries, mainly due to favourable climatic conditions, longer growing period and the higher level of knowledge."
Meanwhile, a high-insulation research glasshouse at Wageningen incorporating a twin roof of glass and specialist film to enable year-round production has yielded a "fantastic" crop of high-wire cucumbers. Between late December and late July, an average of 150 Hi-Jack cucumbers weighing 64kg were harvested per square metre at Wageningen's 2SaveEnergyKas, where a test crop of tomatoes was also grown last year.
CO2 usage in the trial was 1.5kg per square metre and gas consumption 12.7cu m per square metre. "This means a saving in gas consumption of about 45 per cent in comparison with the practice," said researcher Jan Janse.
Since mid July, a new crop of Hi-Power cucumbers has been planted that is already bearing fruits. As with the previous trial, three different aisle widths of 1.4m, 1.6m and 1.8m are being compared. "If this second crop also goes well it should be possible to achieve an excellent total production of good-quality cucumbers," added Janse.