Although the summer apple harvest has already ripened in some places, processors do not need their precipitation this year. Such an extraordinary situation in the horticultural sector has arisen due to extremely high energy costs, because pressing apple juice is simply not worth it. Some apple growers will leave the fruit to rot on the ground, while others plan to process it themselves. Gardeners are also anxiously waiting for winter, because they do not know how much they will have to pay for fruit storage.
It is not known about the precipitation
Most of the summer apples in the orchards of “Nardavas” (Pasvalis district) are picked and sold, some are still waiting for their turn. However, the situation is a bit different with summer apples. The director of the nursery, Saulius Palijanskas, says that the recyclers do not need them this year, because it is not profitable for the latter to recycle yet. “We still don’t know what will happen to apples of later varieties, because the buyers did not give any specific answer. They calculate their expenses, how much money they will spend on electricity, gas. The big buyers of Lithuania and Poland have not yet bought the summer rainfall”, the interviewer sighs.
When asked whether the apples will be left to rot on the ground, or whether they will still be collected, S. Palijanskas assures that he will try to process part of the harvest at the “Nardavas” company, in the processing workshop. Jams and purées are made from summer flowers. In total, it is planned to produce about 1 thousand. tons of production.
So far, only dessert summer apples have been sold. Buyers paid 10 ct/kg to the grower for them. The latter can already be found in supermarkets. “For now, we are satisfied with the price, but we understand that it may still change in September and later autumn. We, like the processors, calculate the increased prices of fuel and electricity, we calculate how much it will cost to store apples”, – S. Palijanskas is anxiously waiting for the storage season.
Looking to the near future, the interviewer considers that it would be the right time to reduce the volume of “Naradava” gardens. Currently, apples are ripening on an area of 305 hectares, and he would consider giving up up to 50 hectares. He assures that there is no longer enough strength to take care of the trees and later collect the harvest from them. There is a lack not only of labor, but also of finance, because the skyrocketing energy prices are forcing gardeners to tighten their belts more than ever.
Risk of losing a third of the income
At that time, in “Luksnėnai sodai” (Alytus district), this year’s harvest is slightly smaller than the average. Although the harvest is still on the branches, it can already be seen that it is of lower quality. Due to the heavy rain, it was not possible to spray the gardens when they were in bloom. Only lilac apples were harvested this summer, and other summer apples will ripen in a few weeks. Nursery manager Gitana Jonuskaitė-Gūžienė says that lilac apples are floury, so they are not of interest to larger buyers. About 300 kg were harvested from about ten trees, the entire harvest was taken away by a small trader who sold the apples in the markets. He paid growers 1 euro per kilogram.
Due to the unfavorable weather conditions in the spring, many gardeners could not enter the orchards in time to spray the fruit trees, so the fruits were affected by diseases and pests, and in some places the spring frosts bit the blossoms of the “Golden” variety. Some orchards lost up to 20 percent of these more delicate apples.
“The picking of other summer apples has not started yet. We will deliver them to retail chains later. I spoke to a buyer of non-conditon apples this week and he has already asked me what the tentative prices will be. Such a question was somewhat surprising, because we had not thought about it yet, and the harvest is not miraculous. He just sighed and explained that all his fruit processing equipment is gas powered. Since their price has jumped to record highs, the buyer wants to calculate whether it will pay for him to process fallen apples at all”, G. Jonuskaitė-Gūžienė tells about the extraordinary situation in the garden market. She adds that if the processors still refuse the substandard apples in the fall, the orchard will lose about a third of its income. According to her, this year the cost of growing apples has doubled, and if the buyers decide not to buy the harvest, it will hurt their pockets.
The interviewer says that previously some of their organic Bogatyr apples were exported to Poland and Germany. It turns out that the juice of these apples is acidic, and they are perfect for calibrating the juice of a famous global brand to have the same taste. “However, we are now selling them on the local market. All the demand is met by Polish growers,” assures the director of Luksnėnai gardens.
Vitalija Kuliešienė, director of the Association of Lithuanian commercial gardens “Vaisiai ir uogos”, says that this year’s commercial gardens are expected to have a slightly lower than average harvest. Due to the unfavorable weather conditions in the spring, many gardeners could not enter the orchards in time to spray the fruit trees, so the fruits were affected by diseases and pests, and in some places the spring frosts bit the blossoms of the “Golden” variety. Some orchards lost up to 20 percent of these more delicate apples.
While gardeners are waiting for the big working year, some of them do not know where to put the summer precipitation. V.Kuliešienė admits that these apples were never very interesting to the buyers, they used to buy them for a small price. But this year they don’t need them at all. “I can understand after processing. When we see the prices of electricity and gas, who can afford to start production? Some gardeners will press the juice themselves. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that the price of apples and juice does not rise, and the cost of cultivation increases several times. Next to us is Poland, which grows almost half of the harvest for the whole of Europe. It dictates the conditions for us. Of course, they were also harmed by energy prices, but part of the losses suffered were compensated by their government,” says the head of the trade garden association about the experience of our Polish neighbors.
Waiting for winter with fear
V. Kuliešienė admits that if our local purchasing companies also refuse autumn rainfall, it will have a strong impact on gardeners. Although the falls were never expensive, the income from them covered the costs of picking dessert apples. According to her, the majority of gardeners are also anxiously waiting for the upcoming winter season, because it is not clear how much the price of storing the harvest will increase and at what price the apples will have to be sold.
“Our gardeners have not yet recovered from the frosts of 2019. Working capital is lacking, and previous support has been symbolic. I hope that I will soon be able to meet with the Minister of Agriculture Kęstučius Navickas. We want to ask for compensation so that there is at least some “cushion” in covering the electricity, gas bills, maybe we can ask for dumping the price. This is what other countries do to keep the business alive. It’s disappointing that nobody pays attention to our business”, V. Kuliešienė does not spare the criticism.
All production components are expensive
This summer, Lithuanian currants and Polish cherries have already arrived at the “Anykščiai vyn” processing workshops, but Lithuanian apples have not yet appeared. The head of production, Lyubovė Rebiatnikova, assures that the harvest is late this year, so the farmers expect to receive the first apples in the first week of September. “We will start apple processing only when we have a sufficient amount of them. After all, we all want to work efficiently. If we have raw materials less than the minimum equipment load, then we cannot afford to process them. We all know how energy costs have changed this year. Every month we take a new look at how the cost of production changes. I can say that not only gas and electricity are becoming more expensive, but also bottles and labels. Here, sugar is more expensive not in percentages, but sometimes. Unfortunately, I cannot name a single item of our production that has been cheaper recently. Everything is expensive,” emphasizes L. Rebiatnikova.
It is true that “Anykščių vynas” is not going to reduce the production volumes for now, and if the situation does not fundamentally change, it is planned to produce a little more than last year. According to her, last year there was a very poor harvest of apples, which is why we managed to process much less of them, so we hope to make up for it this year. It is interesting that Lithuanian and, for example, Polish apples are suitable for producers due to their similar taste, but locally grown apples have more fiber and dry matter.
VL tried to contact other large fruit processors as well, but it was not possible to get a response. The head of one company refrained from commenting on the difficult situation in the company.
Everyone changes pricing
Harvest is done in autumn not only in commercial gardens, but also in amateur gardens. The bagged harvest is transported to local juice presses, where the juice is packaged in plastic bags and boxes. However, gardeners who brought their apples here this year will have to pay more for their services. The managers of the presses do not reveal how much the exact cost of juicing will be yet and say they are waiting for future electricity bills. However, even if they are not received, it is obvious that the prices will have to be raised.
Audronė, who works at the press located in Senoja Varėna, says that the preparatory work has already started, and she is already receiving calls from gardeners who have collected the first harvest of apples. Customers are already asking not only when the press will open its doors to customers, but they want to know immediately how much they will have to pay for the service provided. “People are asking how the pricing will change this year. They are well aware that not only electricity has become more expensive, but also workers are paid higher wages, so it is natural that we are also thinking about raising prices. In the next two weeks, we will see how the prices will change, we will order packages, we will calculate the cost price”, the representative of the juice press teaches.