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Spain: Fuentes de Ebro onions aim for longer market presence
The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Cebolla Fuentes de Ebro is promoting an R+D+i project to deseasonalise the marketing of this product, which stands out for its sweet and mild flavour, and which was already mentioned in the classic work of Spanish literature "Cantar del Mio Cid".
Onions are usually associated with strong flavours and teary eyes, but those of the PDO Fuentes de Ebro have a unique sweet taste due to their high water content, which is why they also don't cause irritation. Moreover, they are easily digested and don't leave an aftertaste. In fact, they can be eaten as snacks, just like an apple. Because of these characteristics, they are highly appreciated in culinary circles, since they can be used even for the elaboration of desserts.
The organoleptic properties are achieved through its seeds and genetics, but also thanks to the confluence of three factors that make it impossible to grow them anywhere else in the world, not even a small distance from their production area in Zaragoza: the water of the river Ebro that irrigates the about 150 hectares of crops; the fertile soil, with a high pH and abundant gypsum and calcium carbonate (the calcium component has an impact on the soil texture) and a windy microclimate, with little rainfall.
"In Aragon, we have the best onions in the world; it is a gift from nature. Our grandparents kept the seeds and, taking advantage of the soil and climate here, the growers sowed them year after year. This is what led to the development of the seeds of Fuentes de Ebro onions," affirms Daniel Molina, president of the PDO.
Its special characteristics, which help it stand out from other onions "that are also called sweet, but which are actually not, have also been achieved thanks to the great care to the crop on the part of us growers."
The plantations must be allowed to rest every three or four years for a rotation with other crops, like tomatoes, wheat, corn, legumes or alfalfa. "It's a healthy rotation." There are also other essential processes in the crop's cultivation, such as covering them to prevent them from burning and to ensure they preserve their white colour. The harvest starts in June for the early onion or spring onion, and in July (until December) for the fresh onion. Following this starts the industrial process by which the onions are selected and calibrated, so that the small and medium ones can go to the domestic market and the big ones to the horeca channel.
The reputation of the crop's properties and production processes is improving thanks to the PDO Fuentes de Ebro, which was granted in 2011 after years of hard work. Its initial production was 725 tonnes, and this figure has gradually increased to the 5,000 tonnes forecast for this year, which will be put on the market by three trading companies (La Corona, Jumosol and Agrofuentes), all part of this PDO. The cultivation area is limited to only six Zaragoza municipalities: Fuentes de Ebro, Pina de Ebro, Quinto de Ebro, Osera de Ebro, Villafranca and Mediana de Aragón.
The history of these municipalities has always been linked to this onion, with references to it already in Roman times and in the "Cantar del Mío Cid". "We have to tell our story, so that when customers buy the onion, they will think about it and come back for more."
95% of the production of this sweet onion, which is differentiated in the market by its black label and its characteristic logo, is sold in Spain, "which is our main market." Some major retailers, like El Corte Inglés, Mercadona or Alcampo, have them in their range, although it is also sold in European foreign markets, in gourmet shops mainly from Germany, France and Italy. Apart from that, it has conquered palates in Poland and Romania and is sold online.
Promoting the crop's marketing is one of the challenges for this PDO, as is being able to extend its presence in the market, so that its sale can be deseasonalised, and to give it a longer shelf life, while maintaining its properties and quality. "That is the future. We want to be present in the market all year round."
Publication date: 9/22/2017
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