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Peak productions but shortage of pickers

Portuguese soft fruit sector working at half power

June is the month of peak production in soft fruit. In many European countries harvest is in full swing, except in Portugal. "At the moment around half is being harvested for different reasons. It particularly concerns raspberries, blueberries and red currants," says Veerle Baets of Special Fruit. "Portugal isn't the only origin of course, but takes up a special place as a supplier of soft fruit at this time of year. At the moment it is a difficult situation there."

Shortage of pickers
She indicates that the recent warm weather has given the production a huge boost and that the volumes are large. "Unfortunately there is a big shortage of pickers in Portugal. Despite the fact that a lot of fruit is ready to harvest, it isn't immediately possible. There are new and very strict rules being imposed by the Portuguese government who have made it very difficult to get foreign workers in. It is a complex situation and growers have no control over it. This was already a problem in March this year, when there were a few weeks with problems with getting labourers." Veerle says that there were area expansions this year in Portugal, so there is extra production this year compared to previous years. Of the three types of soft fruit there is mainly a focus on blueberries at the moment as they are easiest to pick."

Prices are low
Despite the shortage in manpower and smaller volumes in Portugal the prices aren't much higher than usual. "In many countries the production is at a peak and that means lower prices. As there is a large supply every year in June, the programmes with supermarkets are set to those figures which means that they agreed lower prices beforehand." For Special Fruit it is now a challenge to fill all these programmes. "We are looking at alternative productions from other origins to fill in the gap. On the medium term we are looking for a solution to supplying our own pickers. This would be a group of people we can trust who will hopefully rotate through production areas in Spain and Portugal. Hopefully this will provide a more balanced supply in the future," concludes Veerle.

For more information:
Veerle Baets
Special Fruit
Europastraat 36
2321 Meer - Belgium
Tel: +32-(0)3 3301792
Fax: +32-(0)3 3150843

Publication date: 6/19/2017


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