‘Refrigerating and freezing storage in the stranglehold on energy prices’

‘Refrigerating and freezing storage in the stranglehold on energy prices’

interview Davey Gerlings, director Nekovri

The cold stores have been hit hard by the sky-high energy prices. The Nekovri industry association is concerned. Not only do the members themselves have to deal with great uncertainty, the food supply is also at risk, warns director Davey Gerlings. The budget memorandum does not yet include support for the sector.

How badly do the cold stores suffer during the energy crisis?

This is very worrying in our sector. We have been using a similar clause since last year to the road hauliers with their diesel clause, but for energy. We use the APX prices (day ahead market, ed.). The average price in August is tenfold compared to a few years ago. The actual costs depend on the energy contracts, but for many cold stores these expire at the end of this year. Your energy bill will increase tenfold.

What percentage of the costs is energy in cold stores?

On cooling it is about 15 to 20%. When freezing it is around 25% for new systems and even 35% for older systems. And many members rely on value-added services, such as freezing meat very quickly. Then the share of energy is even greater.

Do customers agree to price increases?

Theoretically, they have to accept the terms and conditions. But someone can run away. The cold stores and freezers store 90% of the food. The question is whether the price increases can be passed on to consumers. 20% of the price of an apple consists of transport and storage. If our rates double, the consumer will no longer be able to afford that apple. That makes it difficult.

A cold store that still has an ‘old’ contract is cheaper compared to a competitor that has to pay the current rates. You can hardly compete with that.

Most cold stores buy 50% long-term and 50% on the spot market. They can play with the energy demand all day, and electricity is often cheaper in the afternoon than at This is not possible with refrigeration, where the temperature must remain the same within a tenth of a degree. Many freezer houses also have solar panels on the roof, but this certainly cannot cover the entire bill. If the entire roof is full, it is often a maximum of 25%. I am particularly concerned about the competition with foreign countries, because the companies there pay less for their energy due to public measures.

Are there already members to close their doors?

Our sector is in a stranglehold. Apples come from the country in September. Because we can store them well, they are fresh in the store all year round. We manage supply and demand and therefore also influence the market price of apples. If we were to switch off our freezers in September, the apples would be turned into animal feed. Then a lot of food is wasted. Then we have a social and economic problem due to food shortages for the rest of the year. We can’t switch off the cold stores, that would be disastrous for society. And setting a few degrees warmer is also not possible due to food safety requirements.

So food prices skyrocket?

It must mean that. The question is whether the chain and the consumer can afford it. For example, various growers are currently leaving their greenhouses empty due to the high energy costs. It may therefore also be that there will be less supply for us to store things in the future. Also, you can’t just turn off a cold store for a while. If it has cooled for years at -20 degrees, you will otherwise get cracks in walls and walls.

Is it a sad prospect for your members?

Yes of course. That is why we need support from the government. It is already happening in countries around us, so there is perspective there. Although I have felt some movement here lately, nothing concrete yet. Perhaps we, as a sector, have been a little too modest and we should sound more of an alarm.

What do you expect from The Hague?

In the short term, we need financial or fiscal compensation for energy prices. This also helps the consumer because the price of food remains within the limits. Tax is a large part of our energy bill. We are still just below the consumption limit to qualify for the benefits of the large consumption tariff. We therefore want the same tariffs as large consumers.

And in the long term?

The uncertainty in the sector means that there is no more investment. It’s a shame, also because our cold stores produce residual heat. In the long term, we must be supported to finance such sustainable development, which also helps society. Only the market is now too unstable, so no one dares to put money into it.

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