Murcia's 2014-2015 tomato season has gone from strength to strength. In 2014, the Region's exports increased by 8 percent compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 127,872 tonnes, which places it as the second most important Spanish region in terms of volume shipped overseas, behind Andalusia.
According to data from the Association of Producers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables of the Region of Murcia (Proexport), despite an increase of 8 percent in volume, the sales value increased by 2 percent and amounted to 116.6 million Euro.
Almeria was the largest exporter in Spain, with 541,363 tonnes. Behind Murcia, the third largest production area was Granada, with 79,291 tonnes sold in the international markets. The tomato companies associated to Proexport are distributed between the towns of Mazarrón, Águilas and Lorca.
The president of Proexport's tomato department, José Hernández, said that the 2014-2015 "campaign has been acceptable. Precisely because of the abnormalities that have taken place it has been a normal season for our productions. To be precise, in October we expected a major production coming from the Netherlands which eventually never arrived, so the start was not bad. And in January, aware that the competition from Moroccan exports could cause chaos in the market, there was another abnormality, as torrential rains reduced its supply by 50%. Such circumstances have made it possible for the campaign to be considered normal to good."
As for the main destinations for Murcia's tomatoes, Hernández says that "taking into account that the UK, France and Germany account for almost 75% of the population of the European Union, it is clear where our main markets are." But he adds that "we can also highlight the United States and Asia, as well as the UAE to a lesser extent. Russia, which was a major consumer, is a destination affected by the veto."
José Hernández explains that the crisis that the tomato sector suffered and which has resulted in the loss of many jobs in Spain "has motivated those of us who continue working to develop new products and invest in different lines of R&D. Tomatoes have stabilised in Murcia because products with high added value are being developed. Volume is no longer a reference, because there are tomatoes in the market with prices ranging from 0.70 to 6 Euro per kilo. Murcia in particular is mostly committed to specialisation and to adding value to its production by developing flagship products which in some cases are also exclusives of Murcian companies."
Damage caused by the heat
The agricultural professional organization ASAJA-Murcia reported that the high temperatures of mid-August, together with those of the previous weeks, "have severely damaged tomato plants by up to 60 percent in the towns of Águilas and Mazarrón."
For the secretary general of ASAJA-Murcia, Alfonso Gálvez Caravaca, "the high temperatures have seriously affected the fruit and vegetable crops in Mazarrón and Águilas." Temperatures exceeded 40 degrees and the impact "is very negative, especially for tomato crops."
Murcia's pepper export season has come to an end and there is full satisfaction with the course of the campaign among producers. Several producers even rated it the "best season in years." Prices have been good, especially in late May; production has been "fair" and quality has also been acceptable up until mid-June. Pepper production in the region of Murcia this season has also exceeded the 142.24 million kilos achieved last year, although no definite figures are yet available.
The quality of peppers declined dramatically at the end of the season, although it has been good up until mid-June. In the first half of June the companies based in Murcia had good sales in Europe's major markets.
The Councillor of Agriculture and Water stresses the importance of this crop, as Murcia last year was Spain's second largest pepper producer, behind Andalusia, with ten percent of the national total.
Murcia's pepper exports account for about 12 percent of Spain's, which is the main producing country in the European Union. Murcia last year exported a total of 77,048 tonnes, 72 percent of the total production. Over the last ten years, Murcia's exports of this product have increased by 19 percent.
Murcia's peppers, which are grown mainly in Campo de Cartagena, are mostly exported to countries of the European Union. The value of the Region's exports to these countries represents 96 percent of the total. The main customers are Germany and France, which receive 67 percent of all shipments overseas.