"Ernesto Machancoses (Frutas Inma): "Of the remaining 30%, we can write off 90%”"

Night frosts create havoc for Valencian kaki harvest

Last week, Frutas Inma, like other exporters in Benimodo (Valencia), was readying itself for the home stretch of the kaki season. The fruit was good and ready to be harvested, but a few nights of frost later and the season changed drastically. “Of the remaining 30% that we are able to harvest, 90% is a write-off. It is a disaster”, says Technical Manager, Ernesto Machancoses, showing the damaged fruit.

No industry market for persimmon
"Normally, we sometimes see this frost in January or February, not in December. We are completely helpless. Nothing can be done with this product. There are already black spots on the fruit and within ten days the kakis are as soft as a sponge. Kakis also do not have a second chance as, for example, juice, in the industry”, says Ernesto.

"It is not just a terrible situation for the growers. I estimate that only about 70% of the farmers are insured. They will not make any profit but can start afresh. In our area, a lot of the economy is directly, or indirectly, linked to kaki cultivation. It is also a grim situation for the pickers and packing centre workers. But these things happen. We will have to deal with it. I expect that we can realise no more than 25% of the agreed upon programmes.”

"We have informed our customers. A rise in the price is inevitable, but I don’t expect a sudden hike in the coming days. This is because everyone will want to sell their marketable produce as soon as possible”, he says. Where the effects of the frost vary greatly locally, the entire kaki cultivation in Valencia has suffered. "Spain grows 25 000 hectares of kaki, of which 23 000 hectares is in Valencia. This, therefore, has enormous consequences for the market situation. This year we would have had a normal season and would have harvested about 300 000 tonnes of kaki. The new plantations which are coming into production will result in an expected volume of 500 000 tonnes within the next three years.”

Focus on distant destinations
Where most exporters focus on the European market, Frutas Inma decided seven years ago already to focus on other global destinations. “Half of our volume is destined for destinations that are further away. This makes us an exception in this business. Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordania and Qatar are good markets for us. Within Europe, Germany and France are, by far, our biggest markets. The persimmon is well-known in Spain, but sales are always a bit disappointing since many people have persimmon trees of their own.”

In recent years, kaki cultivation has increased dramatically in Valencia in favour of citrus cultivation. Ernesto does not, however, believe that this expansion was more than the market needed. “This year the volume was even 10% lower than the previous year. The persimmon’s market potential is huge. An increasing number of customers are discovering this fruit. It usually starts in the ethnic groups of the population and then spreads to the other markets. China is currently importing a lot of fruit from South Korea and Japan. When that market opens, it will offer great opportunities for Spanish kakis. Before the boycott, Russia was good for 30% of our kakis. If that market were to open again, we would have a shortage of kakis.”

"The volumes of this fruit are not the problem, It is the way in which we sell them. We send good quality kakis, but we sell in bulk. This happens across the board in our sector. Overseas sell lower quality persimmons at the same price we do. We let ourselves get played too easily by the retail sector”, says Ernesto.

Customers want product year-round
Although Frutas Inma is testing various new kaki varieties, their customers still prefer the Rojo Brillante. "We ask our customers what they want, but we do see the potential in extending the Spanish season. I don’t see us doing this with the Rojo Brillante", says Ernesto. Through joint ventures in Peru and Uruguay, the company can provide fruit to their customers for extended periods of time. “Our customers are asking for year-round kakis. This is still a challenge, but I expect that within five years, we will be able to deliver kakis for ten months of the year.”

In addition, Frutas Inma has extended its range with avocados over the past few years. “Just like persimmon, avocados are classified as exotic. We can supply our permanent kaki customers with avocados. Avocado cultivation in Valencia is certainly not easy, but it is possible. We also grow avocados in Peru on a 200-hectare area. This is in order to supply our customers with avocados year-round. Our other products, such as pomegranates, also, of course, have potential. We have, however, chosen to focus on persimmon and avocado. You can’t be a specialist in every area.”

For more information:
Ernesto Machancoses
Frutas Inma
Carrer de L’Olivera,
46291 Benimodo (Valencia)
Tel: +34 96 253 14 71

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