Do you know where your daily fruits and vegetables come from? I think we either don’t question ourselves enough and just go for the – most times – cheapest option the supermarket offers or we do care about the source of our food and still have some misconceptions about organic food, local food, food from other European countries or food which comes from overseas.
I was very happy to get invited by www.fruitvegetableseurope.eu to join their CuTE EUROTOUR and visit their stop in Cologne. CuTE stands for cultivating the taste of Europe and their campaign is about getting to know European productions methods and the quality, variety and freshness of European fruit and vegetables.
I’ve attended their launch event in Brussels last month and so it was great to see how their tour went so far, re-visit the greenhouse and learning more. We had the possibility to speak to experts about the sustainability of greenhouses and learn about biological pest control in greenhouses.
As there are some common concerns which you may heard of before I have a little Q&A for you with hopefully new insights. This relates to the production in Spain as the expert we talked to is from APROA, the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producers’ Organization of Andalusia:
1. There is a water shortage in Spain, is this worsen by agricultural production?
Producers understand the valuable resource of water and this is why new techniques and technologies has been introduced which allow to reduce the water usage. The new technologies measure the exact amount of water needed and don’t waste any. This led to a reduced water usage of 50% in Almeria, the biggest production area of Spain.
2. How is plastic being recycled in greenhouses and fields?
The overall goal is to recycle 100% of all plastic being used. Currently, between 70-80% of all plastic can be recycled. For one kilo tomatoes being produced, the amount of plastic needed sums up to 8g which is very low. The cover of greenhouses are a very popular recycling product and in their second life they are reused in the form of pellets or chipboard to obtain a new plastic.
3. What is the effect of greenhouse production on climate change?
Agriculture can have a positive effect to mitigate the increase in CO2 since the plants at as sinks of carbon. The greenhouse in Almeria is able to fix 8-10 tons of CO2 per year, or what is the same, each hectare absorbs the daily emission of 8 cars.
4. Some consumers say that fruit and vegetables from greenhouses are not tasty. What do you think about that?
There are several factors which need to be considered. Once the fruits and vegetables leave the greenhouse, its packaged, transported and stored. The supply chain controls each of this stage so that quality losses are minimal but consumers need to make sure they know about the right storage of fruits and vegetables. A tomato at room temperature continues to ripen which improves their flavor. If they are stored in the fridge, this process is stopped and the cold alters the texture as well. Fruits and vegetables from greenhouses have a great taste nowadays and are not different to open air production.
5. What is the salary of an average agricultural worker in Spain?
A worker in Spain earns 8,24 € per hour which is higher than many other European countries. The producers aim to work with longterm workers as they gain experience and can handle the crops in a more efficient way the longer they work with the producers.
6. Regarding a German perspective – why buy European when you can buy local?
It is difficult for countries like Germany to consume locally grown fruits and vegetables throughout the year due to its climate. The greenhouses in Germany use heating and artificial light which is not used in Spain and is therefore more climate friendly.
It was great to get more insights and the next time you are in a supermarket, have a look where your fruits and vegetables are from and make a taste test!