"Mollar pomegranate prices are again under growing pressure this year"
While the popularity of pomegranates has grown globally, the acreage devoted to the crop has also been quickly expanding. Spain has gone from producing in just a few specific areas, such as Elche and Murcia, to having plantations across the entire Mediterranean basin, Andalusia and Extremadura.
Until a few years ago, the Spanish production consisted of the native variety of Elche, the Mollar, and the Valenciana, with similar characteristics to the Mollar, but harvested earlier. It is a juicy and sweet pomegranate, although with a poor colouration on its skin. Even though it continues to be the most planted variety, the rise of new, intense red coloured varieties, such as the Wonderful or Acco, among others, suggests not only a possible change in future pomegranate consumption trends, but also the fear of an overproduction that already begins to be reflected in the prices.
"We have already harvested all the Mollar pomegranates for this season, and now the fruit will remain in cold chambers until we finish marketing them in January and February," says Susi Bonet, a sales representative for the Cambayas cooperative in Elche.
According to Susi Bonet, sales in the current campaign are not going as smoothly as in the previous year. "The profit margins have been adjusting in recent campaigns as the supply has grown. In Spain, there is a growing presence of small producers who try to sell pomegranates on their own. Prices are not falling from one year to the next, but they are gradually going down and are subject to increasing pressure. Our counterparts in Egypt and Turkey have also informed us that the prices of their pomegranates in European markets have dropped as well, as the production volumes are also on the rise in their countries."
Regarding the competition with highly-coloured varieties, Susi Bonet affirms that "the market is demanding colour first of all, so even though the Mollar pomegranate is sweeter, juicier and with fewer seeds, it faces more and more competition from deep red-coloured varieties, which are more appealing to the eye. It is possible that consumers will later realise that the Mollar is much better in terms of taste, but for now, the competition with the red varieties is doing us a lot of damage," says the sales representative.
At the moment, organic Mollar pomegranates continue to be more expensive than conventional pomegranates, according to Susi Bonet, although "the markets that demand organic pomegranates also prefer the red varieties."
"We expect orders to rebound from early December, as Christmas approaches, since it is a fruit that is usually included in Christmas menus, especially for desserts and salads." In general, Christmas is a good time of the year for the sale of exotic fruits," she explains. "This year, the sizes are large and the quality is very good and we hope this will have a positive impact on sales," she adds.
Although this is a year of large calibres and good quality, the sector fears that the current drought will be longer than usual and affect the fruit's quality in the next season.
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Publication date: 11/21/2017
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