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Spain: What is going on in the plum sector?
In Extremadura, which is Spain's largest plum producer, the production has fallen by 30% compared to last season. However, despite this fall in volume, prices are lower.
"Plums have been 'cannibalised' by the rest of stone fruits. The crisis situation caused by the oversupply of peaches and nectarines has had an impact on plum prices, which have fallen to levels even below production costs since the beginning of the season," explains Miguel Angel Gomez, president of Afruex.
While nectarines and peaches will receive some support with the withdrawal quota, plum growers will have to deal with the situation without help. "We were present at the meeting held between the stone fruit sector and the Ministry of Agriculture dealing with the expansion of the quota for the withdrawal of peaches and nectarines. We requested for plums to be included, as well, because of the difficulties the producers are experiencing, "I think plums should enjoy the same withdrawal quota as other stone fruits. It does not make sense for us to be in the same group as kiwis and grapes. We are quite unprotected in this regard."
The closure of markets like Russia and, for two years, the inability to export to Algeria (due to currency issues), where around 10 million kilos of plums were shipped, are making it very difficult. "Although we have recently gained access to the Chinese market, we are forced to look for markets outside Europe; a process that is going too slowly."
"The shipment of plums to China is really challenging"
Plum exports to the Chinese market have been increasing since the protocol was signed with China in mid-summer, when the campaign was already at its peak.
"This year, taking advantage of our gained experience, we are increasing the export of plums to China, although it is being really challenging," explains the Afruex representative. "Due to the problems with the stevedoring, shipping companies have changed and reconfigured their sea routes." Some important connections have been lost and that has made it difficult to reach China, and with these changes, shipping prices have increased greatly.
According to Miguel Angel Gomez, China is a market with potential to grow in the medium and long term. "We didn't expect to open this market and ship large volumes right away. We have to continue becoming familiar with it and letting them get to know us." Chinese importers are asking for fruit with high sugar levels and a smooth texture, which is hard to achieve when covering such long distances. We are seeking more optimised maritime transport with shorter transit times.
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