Analysis Crops

Arable farming's spring crisis deepens

April 25, 2024 - By our team of market reporters

The sun seems unwilling to appear on the horizon. The average arable farmer does not feel happy when checking the weather forecast in the morning and emptying the rain gauge. The amount of rain that has fallen, combined with a changeable weather pattern, is causing the spring work to be further delayed. Last year was already a late spring, but this year seems to be even more disastrous.

The poor autumn of 2023 meant that the soil structure for the new season would not be optimal, but the long wet spring period is certainly deteriorating the conditions for this season compared to last year. A limited or mild winter also prevented the soil from recovering sufficiently.

With the weather forecast looking changeable until mid-May, dark clouds are forming over the potato and onion market. Potatoes can still yield reasonable to good harvests with a planting date around mid-May, but for onions, it's a different story, as shown by the 2023 harvest. An assessment of the situation with onion planting indicates that less than half of the nationally planned area has been planted. Much of the area still needs to be planted in France and Germany as well. Allegedly, arable farmers in the Flevopolder are the most advanced in planting. In other cultivation areas such as Southwest Netherlands and the northern sandy soils, less than 25% of the onion area has been planted.

No planting weather
For potatoes, the late spring is also a major challenge. Many potato growers are increasingly concerned about the availability of seed potatoes, as well as their delivery and quality. Due to the scarcity of seed potatoes, much cutting will be necessary. When cutting seed potatoes in stock, there must be 'planting weather', with cutting preferably taking place two to three days before planting.

When the weather changes, everyone will want to get out into the fields as soon as possible, but it is expected that with fresh cutting of seed potatoes, waiting times of two to four weeks may arise. This could mean that some growers will only receive their seed potatoes very late.

Overall, it seems that the start of the new harvest year will be even slower than the previous year. Whether this will also affect the price is not yet clear. The futures market for April 2025 shows limited movement around €29, which is logical because many growers have already signed contracts and have nothing more to sell in case of low yields. For onions, people are also cautious for the next season. The acreage growth in Northwest Europe and the poor sentiment in the current onion market make everyone very cautious.