Sergio Sánchez, of Agromolinillo:
Spain: "This year, there will be a greater blueberry production, but also more demand"
At the moment, the Chilean blueberry campaign is about to come to an end, and Spain has more and more production.
"Significant volumes of Spanish fruit are expected to be available in the European market within two or three weeks, as soon as the distribution chains make the switch from one origin to another," explains Sergio Sánchez, Export Sales Manager of Agromolinillo. "At the moment, due to the low availability of Spanish blueberries, the prices are much higher than those of Chilean blueberries, whose quality is starting to deteriorate. When the Chilean blueberry season is in full swing, the long trips in containers do not have an impact on the quality, but at this point, it is already noticeable and it is no longer profitable. For that reason, some even consider shipping it by plane, which increases the costs."
Agromolinillo focuses on the Spanish production when it is in season, while in the off-season, it imports from Peru, Chile, Poland or Morocco.
Based in Moguer, this family business is devoted to the production and marketing of berries and citrus fruits. It owns over 800 hectares of crops. 35 years ago, when it was founded, the company started with the production of oranges and mandarins. Over the years, strawberry cultivation became increasingly more important, until blueberries became its main product a few years ago.
"We still grow a significant volume of strawberries; about 5 million kilos, but given the current market demand, we have been increasingly cultivating other berries, especially blueberries, which have become popular because of their health benefits. We currently produce about 6 million kilos of blueberries. It is a trendy product and it also offers more stability in the field, since its plants live for about 10 years, while strawberries must be planted every year. We work with free varieties, although we are constantly in touch with nurseries and breeders to stay up to date and find opportunities to expand our portfolio with new varieties and differentiate ourselves from our competitors."
While the Spanish blueberry season normally kicks off in mid-March and ends in late June, "this year we have started supplying some small volumes in early January. Our technicians believe that this has been due to how the pruning was carried out last year. Our objective is to extend our production schedule as much as possible in order to spread out the supply as much as possible and thus avoid high production peaks, as this greatly facilitates the marketing."
Last season, the Spanish blueberry sector went through some difficult times due to an excessive concentration of the supply, which led to prices being under pressure. "This year, Huelva's blueberry production is expected to be greater than in the previous campaign, although it is worth noting that a higher demand is also expected. The market is increasingly prone to consume this product, and this could bring balance to the market, although prices will not be like those of previous years," he says.
Almost all of Agromolinillo's production is exported, mainly to European markets, as well as Asia and the Middle East. "We were the first to ship blueberries to South East Asia, where we are growing every year. Even though blueberries are a perishable product and we look for nearby destinations, the Asian markets and the Arab Emirates play an essential role, since they allow us to reduce the fruit's supply in Europe when there is too much production available. The company cannot continue growing without these markets," concludes Sergio Sánchez.
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Publication date: 3/5/2018
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