The harvest of the Wonderful pomegranate has already kicked off in the Spanish province of Valencia. Growers José Bellver and Miguel Camarelles started harvesting their first pomegranates on 3 October and invited FreshPlaza to share their experiences and impressions.
The fruit's ripening has been slower than usual because of the high temperatures recorded, which have been more summer than autumn-like. Moreover, the crop needs colder nights for a good coloring.
If there is something remarkable about the pomegranate season this year, it is the scarcity of large sizes because of a poor fruit setting, as has also been the case with citrus fruits. "We have already finished harvesting the Acco pomegranates and a lot of fruit has been left behind in the trees because it didn't reach the sizes that the markets demand," says Miguel Camarelles. "With the Wonderful pomegranate, we are dealing with the same problem. Supermarkets are mainly asking for pomegranates with sizes 10 and 12, and only about 20% of our production has reached those. Normally, we do thinning work in the trees to obtain larger sizes. but this year there was less flowering and therefore we could not risk losing more flowers."
Miguel Camarelles (left) and José Bellver, in one of their farms.
Although the juice industry could be an alternative for the fruit that does not reach the right sizes or meet other standards required by the marketers, José Bellver states that the prices offered there don't cover the cultivation and harvesting costs. "This year, for example, the sector is offering 8 cents per kilo, while the costs for the harvest alone amount to around 15 cents per kilo."
About five years ago, the two Valencian growers decided to start trying other crops besides citrus, whose profitability has been falling for years, especially for small-scale growers. After scrutinizing the needs on the European markets, they found an interesting market niche in the cultivation of pomegranates. Moreover, the fruit's cultivation adapts perfectly to the climatic conditions in Valencia. This was a business opportunity that needed to be exploited and they decided to give it their all, says José Bellver.
The pomegranate growing companies are based in El Camp de Morverdre and L'Horta Nord, in the north of Valencia. Here the varieties Smith, Acco, Wonderful and, to a lesser extent, the traditional Mollar are grown. This is the fifth year since the first planting and the plantations now yield plenty of fruit.
"Last year and the year before we carried out the processing, packaging and export of our pomegranates, for which we rented the necessary facilities, from where the fruit was shipped to various European countries under our brand Lyfruits. This season we decided to collaborate with a marketer. That way, the fruit will be packed not only under his brand, but also under ours, and we'll be able to keep our customers," says Miguel Camarelles.
The two growers are also cultivating avocados in Valencia. The Lambhass variety is the most common, because of the large sizes it reaches in the growing areas in northern Valencia. "The profitability of the Lambhass avocado is interesting because of its size and the market gap that it fills. This is because it is harvested between March and May, a period in which the avocado season in Malaga is already over and the large volumes from overseas exporters have yet to arrive," they explain. "It is an interesting crop, especially for small-scale producers, because reasonable profits can be obtained with not too large volumes," they conclude.