The first stage of the Spanish stonefruit campaign has not been easy in the early areas of Murcia and Andalusia, where there was a lot of production at the same time and prices fell in the face of weak demand. At the moment, it seems that the situation is more favourable in Catalonia.
"We started our campaign by keeping our eye on Murcia in the rear view mirror, as we inherited a market situation that made us think things could be very complicated for us. At the moment, it seems things are going well, given the smooth delivery of our production on the market. We have the feeling that we are dealing with a different stonefruit campaign, although the strongest months in terms of production, which are July and August, are yet to come," explains Josep Presseguer, manager of Fruits de Ponent.
According to the representative of the cooperative, the yields per hectare are very good, about the usual average, so they expect a production of around 60,000 tonnes. Although June has been marked by advances in the start of the harvest of different varieties, this is something that has gradually been corrected as the campaign has developed.
Nectarines are the predominant species in terms of volume for Fruits de Ponent, although paraguayos are becoming more important and they want to make them their flagship product.
"This year, extra-early producers have clashed against reality"
"A major effort has been made in varietal reconversion, without focusing on the production schedule, but rather seeking to replace those varieties that have become obsolete by those that surpass them widely in uniformity of calibres, colour and sugar content, which is what the market demands," points out Josep Presseguer.
According to the manager of the cooperative, "we perfectly understand that we cannot advance the schedule to May, since we see how other producing areas are not doing very well. Moreover, we have the month of June, in which our early varieties have not performed as well as we would have liked. That is why we think it best to focus on good varieties during July, August and September, which is the natural period for the production of stonefruit."
"We cannot convince consumers to eat stonefruit in October, when the first citrus fruits arrive, let alone at the end of April or early May. It is understandable for growers to want to stretch their campaigns at both ends, although it is not easy. Spain has managed to advance much of the stonefruit harvest in the areas of the Levant and the south, focusing much on the early market, but I believe that this year they have clashed against reality."
"The domestic market should be treated just like exports"
Last year, the cooperative converted its Or de Ponent brand into Oki, and this year it is starting to promote it in different markets, in addition to the domestic one, as it is already marketed in France and Germany, and promotions are being organised in the United Kingdom.
"The Oki has a strong position in the domestic market, especially in Madrid and Barcelona. It is a market that we have to pay more attention to, since it is very mature and is perfectly familiar with the product, since we are a producing country. It is a market that demands quality, so it is wrong to assume that the fruit that is not good enough stays in the domestic market and the good one is exported. It is necessary to treat the Spanish market just like the export market, with the same strictness in terms of quality," points out Josep Presseguer.
Exports to third countries are increasingly important
"We have our plantations registered to be able to ship fruit to China, but we believe that there are still many shortcomings that need to be addressed before exports can start, especially in terms of logistics, since the trips are too long for the fruit to arrive in a good condition. For now, we haven't yet dared to take the definitive step. We have to take into account that it is a difficult market in many aspects and one in which we should be physically present to be able to understand it. The pioneers are the ones who will open the way."
However, the Lleida-based cooperative is arriving without any problems to the Middle East, to the north and centre of Africa and to the American continent, with trips of about twenty days per container. "Those are markets in which we are recording a steady growth and which, in part, help us regulate the European market, which is our most important market by default."
Santi Bonet Fruits de Ponent
T: +34 973 791770okis.es