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To wonder why we import so many peppers, etc. from Holland?

(26 Posts)
Witzend Mon 28-May-18 18:53:21

Holland is a small country with the same climate as the S of England, so I can't help wondering why we don't grow more e.g. peppers and tomatoes ourselves. Is it because miles of plastic greenhouses - similar to those in parts of Spain - are needed, and the NIMBYs don't want them spoiling the view?

I can't think it's that much cheaper to grow them in Holland - they surely have much the same situation with employment, immigrant labour, etc. as we do. Is there something I'm missing?

paddyann Mon 28-May-18 19:08:19

there used to be a massive Tomato growing industry in Scotland ,and then the cheaper foreign products arrived.My husbands godfather lost his business because of the cheap imports.You can still buy "Scotch " tomatoes but the huge greenhouses are long gone.The fact is there isn't a workforce for them and with Brexit the berry industry will be gone too .Shame as our soft fruits are world renowned but how many young folk do you know who will pick berries every summer ? That'll be very few .

Greyduster Mon 28-May-18 19:16:03

I don’5 know if this still applies, but when we lived in Holland, in the late seventies, Dutch growers received considerable subsidy help from their Government and could produce and sell all sorts of salad vegetable much cheaper than we could buy them at home. I used to shop at the local market and if you asked for one cucumber (cucumbers were sold in threes), or less than a kilo of tomatoes, they thought you were very strange! Similarly with most other fruit and vegetables.

Eglantine21 Mon 28-May-18 19:20:05

Our fuel costs are so much more too. The greenhouses need to be kept warm throughout the year.

dbDB77 Mon 28-May-18 19:31:24

We used to get tomatoes etc from the Channel Islands until we joined the Common Market (as was - now EU) then we sourced them from Netherlands - not sure if direct consequence.

Iam64 Mon 28-May-18 19:48:13

In a tomato growing area of Greece, growers are getting 20cents a kilo for their excellent product. It isn’t economically viable, The can’t compete with cheap Bulgarian toms.
Open borders, market forces , huge transport and ecological costs. Why can’t we all use home grown products

Fennel Mon 28-May-18 19:51:18

Interesting - there are many links on Google about this - look for eg Holland fertile soil
" Holland's mild climate, flat and fertile soil and favourable geographical location at the heart of Europe
Next to the geographical expertise, infrastructure, the food processing industry, commerce and logistics are all on an extremely high level in the Netherlands."
We used to live in E. Yorks, which has similar growing conditions. Salads and peas ( Birds Eye Peas?)

Jalima1108 Mon 28-May-18 19:54:29

The tomatoes I buy are British, not Dutch.

Welshwife Mon 28-May-18 20:13:21

Do the Dutch still use a lot of aquaculture? I know they grew tomatoes that way at one time.

petra Mon 28-May-18 20:41:47

Some years back Kent had more poly tunnels than any country in Europe. I don't know the situation now as there was a lot of campaigning to get rid of them.
I find that claim hard to believe having driven through the poly tunnel 'small towns' in Spain. The complex in Almeria covers 135sq miles and most of the produce never sees soil.
It is mind blowing to see.
Water is one of Spain's most precious commodities but at this rate, something's got to give.

M0nica Mon 28-May-18 21:15:22

Holland has probably more land under glass than any other country and has been developing their glass house industry for several centuries.

It produces and exports so much because it has concentrated on the economies of scale, concentrating on three crops only; cuccumbers peppers and tomatoes and growing them in glass houses that can cover 10 or 20 acres or more. Their production costs are less than other people. A number of the Dutch producers also grow under glass in the UK and their are huge acreages of glass houses in West Sussex and in Kent, especially around the Isle of Thanet.

If The Netherlands can produce these three vegetables more cheaply and efficiently than other European countries it makes sense that we buy them and concentrate our agriculture on products that we can produce more efficiently than the Dutch.

Jalima1108 Mon 28-May-18 23:50:18

And flowers too - not just the bulb fields but acres and acres of glass houses growing flowers which are imported into the UK and delivered to florists all over the country.

SpringyChicken Tue 29-May-18 00:13:43

I buy British tomatoes whenever they are available. I think we have to get used to buying more British produce again with Brexit round the corner. By the way, I've found that Lidl are now selling British corned beef! It is more expensive but leaner than South American.

Witzend Tue 29-May-18 11:06:33

I do buy British whenever possible - can often mean going to Waitrose or M&S rather than my more handy Asda - but I still don't understand why we can't do it as cheaply, given such similar conditions - climate, fuel and labour costs, etc.

I will never buy non British strawberries - Dh has occasionally been torn off a strip for buying imported when local are available - he is addicted to having them on his cereal, but only when in local season.

M0nica Tue 29-May-18 19:22:45

It is the economies of scale and closeness of markets. The Netherlands concentrate on just the three vegetables, have gigantic modern state-of-the-art greenhouse systems and because it is such a huge supplier (85% of its output is exported), transport costs to surrounding countries and to the UK, are low, again the economies of scale.

In this country we do not grow on the same scale so it costs more. Why do we not grow on the same scale? Possibly because farmers can get a better return from growing other field crops and the return from such a major investment necessary for these large systems is too low to justify them.

SueDonim Tue 29-May-18 20:52:28

This has been a very informative thread so thank you. As it happens, I bought a cucumber today in M&S. it was grown by Thanet Earth, which is in Kent.

I also got cherry tomatoes grown on Teeside and Scottish strawberries.

alchemilla Thu 31-May-18 15:58:52

@Petra Something already has given. Southern Spain is having enormous problems with sea water entering aquifers because the European demand for cheap Spanish salads/tomatoes etc meant too much water was being pumped from aquifers.

Welshwife Thu 31-May-18 16:25:34

With regard to all the flowers sold by Holland -I know someone who looked into importing flowers directly into Bordeaux rather than needing to have them from Holland. They had a grower in Africa willing to export his flowers there. However they discovered that Holland had the monopoly on the flower markets of Europe and all imported blooms had to go through them.

Jalima1108 Thu 31-May-18 16:33:19

There is a growing movement (pun not intended) for home-grown flowers in this country.

I listened to a wonderful talk by a very enthusiastic grower recently.

petra Thu 31-May-18 19:12:33

We spend a lot of time in Spain in the winter in our motohome. We knew things were bad because a lot of points where we could fill up with water were locked.
It's a very serious situation where the sea water is getting into the aquifers.
If this carries on it will be back to the old days. Don't drink the water/ no water coming out of the taps, and what did come out was pretty bad (sometimes)
When you talk to the old folk, they saw this coming.

petra Thu 31-May-18 19:18:55

Interesting story Re importing flowers from Africa but Holland has the monopoly on flowers.
Now this evening juncker is accusing trump of protectionism hmm

SueDonim Thu 31-May-18 20:42:35

Where I live in Scotland it's not unusual to see fields full of daffodils in Spring. Over the past ten years it's become more and more common, with different varieties being grown.

mcem Thu 31-May-18 21:05:51

And where I live it was fields of strawberries and rasps - now polytunnels.
Sadly, without EU young folk coming for the seasonal work I don't know if we'll have local soft fruit for much longer!

alchemilla Tue 03-Jul-18 21:38:38

petra I haven't heard more about southern Spain but interesting you're finding water harder to access when you fill up. It's not clear in my mind what we do personally about it. I try only to buy tomatoes/cucumbers etc in season and grow my own - and as a tomato addict try to satisfy my cravings with tinned tomatoes out of season I wish we could stick to seasonal veg - including on food/master chef programmes. As it is farmers and industry do abstract a heck of a lot out of rivers. It still doesn't address the problem that without pickers we won't have many veg.

lemongrove Tue 03-Jul-18 22:25:18

Am growing several kinds of tomatoes and also chillies, all outside and all doing well.
No reason we can’t grow more here.