The price war between Del Monte and Orsero was already deeply affecting Spanish and Portuguese operators from other brands, although it seems that the new route adopted by Del Monte for the shipment of its pineapples from Costa Rica to Europe has been the key to destroying the pineapple market in the Iberian Peninsula. According to most operators interviewed by FreshPlaza, Del Monte is now "the king"; the one dictating prices. "The rest of us all fall behind, regardless of the brand," they remark.
"Things have been getting worse since the spring this year," explains a Spanish pineapple importer. Until then, pineapples departed from Costa Rica to the United States in the first place, and later to the port of Marin, in northern Spain, from where both the Spanish and Portuguese markets were supplied. After that, the ships departed to northern Europe, "but apparently that no longer worked for Del Monte," adds another importer.
Now the port of Marin is Europe's final stop. Consequently, "Del Monte ships to northern Europe what is left over from the United States, and what is left over from northern Europe ends up in Spain and Portugal, with the lowest quality and rock bottom prices of between 1.00 and 1.50 Euro."
"Therefore, Del Monte has turned Spain and Portugal into their 'pineapple garbage can'. After making a profit in the United States and Europe, they do not mind losing money selling fruit below production costs, as this allows them to control the market. Additionally, only four large operators distribute the brand in Spain."
Up to week 47, Del Monte pineapples were sold for prices as low as 0.50 Euro per kilo, especially the calibre 5. "Taking into account that our prices need to be around 20 to 25% lower, we had no choice but to sell pineapples by 0.35 to 0.37 Euro per kilo," explains another importer. "If we consider transport costs and the exchange rate, a box costs 7.25 Euro! We could say that pineapples are no longer an exclusive product in Spain; Del Monte has turned them into a commodity, costing more or less the same as a kilo of apples," lamented the importer.
With the Christmas period approaching, prices have started to increase. In week 48, pineapples from brands other than Del Monte already reached 0.55 Euro per kilo and are expected to increase to 0.70 Euro by week 49. "However, Christmas only gives us two or three good weeks. At least the pineapples we are working with this year are of an excellent quality, although it is a shame that with such a product we cannot obtain the profit it deserves," retorts another Spanish operator.
After such a critical year, next year's prospects point to the abandonment of this market by the smallest importers. "Some of us have gone from importing 12 containers last year to just 4," they conclude.