Czech farmers are ending production of black, red and white currants. The berries are most often used in processing of food products, like jams, but producer and consumer demand remain low. Farmers say that prices do not make it worthwhile to plant, maintain and harvest the bushes.
In general, orchards have been shrinking in size since 1989. In addition to peaches and gooseberries, which have effectively dropped out of production, currants are joining with yields falling below the 1000 ton mark in 2019. The drop in currants harvested in 2019 was 50%. The information was communicated by the Chairman of the Fruit Union of the CR Martin Ludvík at the annual Fruit Days in Hradec Králové.
Gooseberry production effectively ended ten years ago. The harvest last year was a measly single ton, whereas in the hey-day the harvest was 1000 tons a season.
Peach production has also effectively disappeared in the past decade. In 2019 there were 448 tons harvested during the season, whereas in the nineties, harvests were common in the 11,000 ton range. The farmers cannot compete with the competition from Greece, Italy and Spain which can harvest different types of peach product supplying the market over a five month period. In the Czech Republic the harvest barely lasts a month.
The Minister of Agriculture has long term goals of increasing the amount of Orchard hectares planted, but Ludvík does not see that happening. Currently there are 13,840 hectares active with apples being the largest single fruit at 6830 hectares. Apples are followed by plums, sour cherries, apricots, cherries and pears. “We expect that during this winter we will lose at least another 1500 hectares of orchards” said Ludvík. This trend is going the opposite direction from the Department of Agriculture’s 2016 plan to have 15,000 hectares this year in place, 18,000 hectares in 2025 and 23,000 hectares by 2030. Another bad trend is the increase in average age of the trees, with 43% now considered mature and needing replacement.
The Czech government gives a CZK 219,000 subsidy for each hectare of newly planted orchard, but Ludvík estimates that the cost of planting a new hectare of fruit trees ranges from 500,000 to 1,000,000 Czech Crowns.