Bad weather hits cucumber crop

Prices for Spreewaldgurken are expected to climb as cool weater and corona conditions lead to fewer jars of the southern Brandenburg delicacy.

Soon to be in a pickle jar near you. 
Soon to be in a pickle jar near you. dpa/Patrick Pleul

Berlin-It's been a tough agricultural year for farmers around Berlin – first the cool spring and summer weather hammered yields of strawberries and Spargel (asparagus), and now the cucumber crop is disappointing in Spreewald, a forested region of irrigation canals south of Berlin. 

Farmers harvested about 24,000 tonnes of cucumbers, or 2,000 tonnes less than in 2019, and well below the expected 30,000 tonnes. Most will be pickled into the Spreewaldgurken pickles that have made the region famous. 

"Nights as cool as 5 degrees in June and July bolstered low cucumber growth rates this year. Daily harvest volumes in July were around 50 per cent of the usual harvest volumes for the main harvest month," the Spreewaldverein association said.

Nine farms in southern Brandenburg cultivate Spreewald cucumbers on 520 hectares –  85 per cent are pickled and 15 percent are used as vegetables. A dozen pickling plants – primarily family businesses – and canneries process the vegetables. The delicacy is known well beyond Berlin and Brandenburg. 

"This year, the contracted quantities due to the nine processing plants of the protected Spreewälder Gurken brand weren't met by the agricultural suppliers," the association said.

Cucumber farms and processing plants also had to wrestle with increased regulations because of corona. The problems were similar to those of Spargel farmers in the spring –special flights of seasonal workers had to be organised and approved by the government to get the crop harvested, increasing costs for farmers.

By mid-July, only 10,000 tonnes of the expected 12,000 tonnes of white Beelitzer asparagus had been pulled out of the fields.