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Tomato growers suffocated by rising gas prices


Thibaud Hue

The economic consequences of the war in Ukraine are increasingly intense and are driving up energy prices. After the price of petrol, it is the price of gas that has undergone a sharp rise. On the front line, producers who grow their tomatoes in heated greenhouses. In great financial difficulty, they fear for the future of their farms.

REPORT

The tomato takes a cold snap. To cope with the low winter temperatures, tomato growers have increased the heating in their greenhouses. But the rise in the price of gas caused by the war in Ukraine has greatly increased their energy budget, putting their farms in very delicate financial situations. In Chailly-en-Bière, in Seine-et-Marne, Benjamin Devos, the manager of a one and a half hectare plot which produces 45 tonnes of tomatoes per year, knows his gas bill by heart. Yet he still can’t believe how much he has to pay each month to keep his tomatoes warm.

“It’s dramatic”

“We were used to paying per megawatt hour between 20 and 30 euros, it was multiplied by six. In March, we will pay 125 euros. It’s as if you paid 10 euros for a liter of diesel”, he explains. scratching the top of his head. Exorbitant, unsustainable prices to heat its 20,000 square meters of greenhouse. The operator is aware that everything could soon stop and he fears for his twenty employees. “If we take the wall once this year, we will have to ask ourselves the right questions at the end of the season. After a while, we are not going to get up in the morning, work like convicts to lose money. It’s tragic,” he said.

Less heating, but not without consequences

So in an attempt to lower the cost somehow, Benjamin Devos found a solution: lower the temperature of his two metal boilers himself. A strategy that he regrets: “There they are stopped, we start them at a minimum. We start them, we stop them constantly… We have no choice to try to spend less.” But these few degrees less in its greenhouses have an impact on operations. The tomatoes grow more slowly and the production will be less over the year.

This market gardener wants to keep selling prices affordable, even if it means setting aside his margin. But by next year, he fears French tomatoes will become much more expensive and bow to foreign competition.


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