Spain: Calanda peaches could reach record harvest

Calanda peaches could reach a record production volume this year, according to the Regulatory Council's prospects. If the weather remains favourable until the end of the campaign, in October, the production could reach 6 million kilos, surpassing the record 5.5 million of 2009.

The president of the Regulatory Board, Samuel Sánchez, explained that the absence of late frosts, the good fruit settling, the low incidence of hailstorms and the availability of irrigation water may well lead to a bumper harvest. 

Samuel Sánchez warned, however, that considering how sensitive the crop is to adverse weather conditions, especially to hail, the prospects could change "in just 24 hours." He explains that the 2013 campaign was also predicted to be really good, but eventually due to the effects of a fungal disease, the production remained at 3.5 million kilos.

Droughts, which have had a big impact this year on rainfed crops, do not threaten the peach production, as peaches are an irrigated crop and there is plenty of water in the reservoirs of the Guadalope, Matarraña and Martin.

The vast majority of labourers, around 90%, are women from Romania, followed by other nationalities such as Moroccan, Polish and Russian. Growers rely on these workers because, in most cases, they already have several years' experience working in the area and are very efficient.

Samuel Sánchez clarified, however, that each year more Spanish labourers are arriving, pushed by high unemployment rates. Sánchez acknowledged that Romanian workers are "highly specialised and do their job really well." Many of them have taken part in the bagging and harvest of peaches for over a decade. A skilled operator can handle up to 7,000 bags a day, twice as much as the usual figures. 

A fruit grower from Alcañiz, José Bayod, explained that growers are forced to hire foreign workers because they cannot find Spaniards willing to work with peaches, as it is "very hard labour, with long hours and plenty of heat." He added that Spanish workers "are only interested in warehouse work, but not in the plantation."


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