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Spain: Europe's largest papaya producer is in Murcia
In just two years, Grupo Durán has managed to become the largest European producer of papayas, already competing in the British and the German markets against Brazilian and Mexican exporters. The company hopes to do the same with mangoes starting this year and is already conducting tests with avocados.
CEO José Miguel Durán assures that papayas are highly appreciated in European countries, offering a greater profit margin compared to citrus fruits and stonefruit. The first greenhouse trials started at the end of 2014, and given the quick growth of the trees, it was possible to market a first harvest totalling 200,000 kilos last year; a volume that will reach 500,000 kilos this season. By 2019, the firm expects to reach 1,200,000 kilos; a sufficient volume, for example, to cover the entire Spanish demand.
The advantage that the company has over its American competitors is its proximity. The American papayas that are shipped by sea have to be harvested unripe, which takes a toll on their quality and taste. Those arriving by plane, on the other hand, are burdened by an added cost of at least one dollar per kilo.
Meanwhile, the fruit grown in Grupo Durán's greenhouses is harvested at the optimum time of maturation and sent to the customer within one or two days by refrigerated truck at a cost of only 10 cents per kilo. "That allows us to be hugely competitive," highlights the CEO.
He adds that papayas have a huge potential in Europe, since demand in the EU amounts to more than 40,000,000 kilos per year. Apart from Grupo Durán, only a few individual growers produce it in Almeria. No one else does in the rest of the continent.
The next step is to do the same with mangoes, whose first harvest will be obtained this summer. In order to compete with the producers from Granada and Malaga, Grupo Durán has opted to cultivate it under greenhouse conditions with the idea of planting as many trees per hectare as possible and producing the fruit outside open-ground harvesting periods, which in the Costa Tropical of Andalusia are July-August and November-December.
At the same time, they have also started their first agronomic tests with avocados.
Before betting on subtropical fruits, which are marketed under the "Molintrop" brand, Grupo Durán produced tomatoes. Faced with the price crises caused by Morocco's competition, it chose to abandon the aforementioned vegetable in 2011 and bet on extra-early citrus. Later, it did the same thing with stonefruit, with varieties suitable to be harvested between the second half of April and the end of May.
"And all the experience we had accumulated with growing tomatoes in greenhouses is being applied to our new products, such as exotic fruits, always seeking business lines and market niches," explains José Miguel Durán.
Regarding "conventional" products of the Region, the company plans to sell 10,000,000 kilos of oranges and mandarins this year; 3,000,000 kilos of lemons and 2,000,000 kilos of peaches, paraguayos, nectarines and apricots. To this end, it has 10,000 square metres of facilities in Mazarrón, where it carries out the tasks of reception, handling and storage of stone and subtropical fruits.
In the case of citrus, the handling and treatment is carried out by Agrios el Carril (a company owned by Grupo Durán), which has a 10,000 square metre plant in Santomera with a packing capacity of 150,000 kilos per day.
Focused on foreign markets
Grupo Durán, managed by Developments and Agricultural Products of Mazarrón, exports about 70% of its production, mainly to countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. It invoiced five million Euro during the past financial year and expects to exceed eight million before 2020.
The company has invested some 650,000 Euro in the production of papayas and mangos in high-tech greenhouses and, in the coming years, plans to invest another 600,000 Euro.
Now it has started with the marketing of its own products. "We are being very careful with their quality and homogeneity, trying to gain experience, so that when business develops a little more, we'll be prepared to handle larger volumes," explains José Miguel Durán. The company is striving to reach commercial alliances with other operators and thus build a greater commercial project with subtropical fruits.
Publication date: 6/16/2017
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