Although the trend in the European markets in recent years has been to prefer the late varieties from the southern hemisphere during the start of the Spanish citrus season, the lack of purchases has become even clearer this year. It has been predicted that, in the future, this may have consequences for the extra early Spanish mandarin varieties.
According to Batiste Eixarch, director of the Valencian company Fontestad, there is "a growing production of Clemengold and Orri mandarins in countries in the southern hemisphere." An example of this is South Africa, where, given the planted area, the volumes in the near future could triple or even quadruple. These varieties are highly appreciated on the market because of their coloring and taste, and therefore threaten the future sale of extra early varieties such as the Clemenrubí or Oronules."
"The late Spanish fruit, however, is also being displaced by the early varieties from the southern hemisphere, both in the case of mandarins of the above mentioned varieties and of oranges, with highly appreciated varieties, such as the Navel Powel, Barfield and Valencia Midknight. As a result, the Spanish harvest is expected to start increasingly later and also finish later. The second half of the season is becoming more interesting for the sector and therefore it seeks to increase the cultivation of late varieties, which dominate the market, and get higher royalties.
"In the past, no dessert oranges were consumed in Spain from May onwards; only juice. Nowadays, however, consumers have access to dessert oranges with very good organoleptic qualities for 365 days a year, because there is a market niche that demands it, despite the great supply of summer fruits."
Fontestad is able to supply citrus fruits all year round. Outside the Spanish season, the company imports oranges from South Africa. Although these have an excellent quality, importing them is becoming increasingly tougher, both financially and with regard to planning. This is due to the decision of the South African citrus sector to interrupt the shipments to Spanish ports. That is why the company is still searching for orange varieties that can extend the cultivation period in Spain until the arrival of the new Navelinas in November. This is a goal that may soon become a reality. "We are already able to supply quality Spanish oranges until the second week of September," said Batiste Eixarch.
A long way to go when it comes to growth on European markets
The company, which is based in Museros, closed the 2017/2018 season with a turnover of 153 million Euro. This entailed a growth of 8%, which was the result of increases in both sales in the domestic market and in exports to Europe, particularly to markets in the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland, and to a lesser extent, in Germany and Poland.
This year, Fontestad has taken a path towards greater sustainability in all processes, from cultivation to processing. The company has invested 2 million Euro in solar panels, which is allowing it to reduce the energy costs of its packaging plant by 25%. A system for the reuse of water has also been set up to ensure a more efficient use of this resource.
Fontestad is also the first company to receive the Bayer Food Chain Partnership certification. This has been achieved thanks to a collaborative project in the food supply chain aiming towards more sustainable agriculture and the obtainment of a healthy and safe quality product. Pests and insects are consequently monitored on the plantations to determine whether intervention is necessary. If that is the case, they look into any possible alternatives to the use of traditional plant protection products, such as the setting of traps, the release of predator insects, sexual confusion, etc. If plant protection products have to be used, the agents with the best toxicological profile are chosen and used at times when the amount of residue on the fruit once it is packaged will be minimal.
"Valencian taste" at Fruit Attraction
Fontestad was the first citrus company to take part in Madrid's Fruit Attraction. Ever since, the company has managed to surprise the fair's visitors every time with its attractive stands, which are set up each year under a different theme related to the company's values. "It is a fair that takes place at a very good time for doing business, and that is due to the fact that there are professionals from the sector like Jorge Brotons and José Gandía at the head. It requires an economic investment, but it always works very well with our customers and visitors. This year, we will surprise visitors with a theme based on the great taste from Valencia. We invite everyone to visit us at hall 3, stand 3D03."