Spanish tomato growers will focus more on organic and specialty tomatoes in the coming years. In Almería, the organic area increased with 25 per cent in 2015. Jan van der Blom from producers organisation Coexphal from Almería spoke about this during the Tomato Conference in Antwerp.
Export Almería increasing
In 2010 the export of Spanish tomatoes experienced a decrease, but in the following years it started increasing again. The main buyer of Spanish tomatoes is Germany. “The tomato export is highest during the months of December through April. During that time Morocco is Spain’s main competitor.” A noticeable development from 2010 until 2015 is that export from Andalusia (Almería) has increased. Until 2010, Murcia experienced a downward trend, but then rose slightly again. Tomato export from the Canary Islands and the rest of Spain is decreasing. Production on the Canary Islands is dropping as well. In the summer Spain imports tomatoes, mainly from Portugal, Morocco and the Netherlands.
The tomato area in Almería was approximately 10,000 hectares in 2015. In Murcia, this was about 2,700 hectares, while this was over 4,000 hectares in 2005. About 40 per cent of the area consists of vine tomatoes, and about 30 per cent consists of the classic, round tomato. Approximately seven per cent of the total area consists of specialties. “With special tomatoes there is, however, a problem regarding continuity of flavour,” according to Van der Blom. He emphasises that many of the numbers are rough estimates, since information is not transparent throughout Spain.
Jan van der Blom.
Cooperatives getting larger
Jan van der Blom explains that the auction system trailed behind in Spain in recent years. “Because they are slow to change with developments, many growers choose to market their products through cooperatives. Therefore, cooperatives have grown rapidly. An example is Vicasol with 730 members and an area of 1,450 hectares. Some cooperatives have split in multiple small growers associations which fall under the ‘mother cooperative.’ For example, growers association Murgiverde has four cooperatives with 750 members and an area of 1,400 hectares in total. Unica Group has nine cooperatives with 2,100 hectares of greenhouses and 1,000 hectares of field cultivation.”
Many growers are still using the old-fashioned greenhouses of the ‘Almería type’ for vegetable cultivation. “Yet a shift is visible, more and more growers are starting to invest in multitunnels.”