“We have started the season a little early this year, about 15 days before our normal start. This 2018/2019 season looks promising, as the quality of our figs is good, the sizes and colour is good. In addition, the market situation is favourable. There is a shortage in the market so far, so the prices are good as well”, starts Mauricio Brotto from Brotto Figs, Brazil.
Starting the season early depends on the weather conditions. “We started our first harvest on the 22nd of October. We are not in full production yet, but up to 70% of our normal harvest. This is purely a result of the weather, as there weren´t many cold days. We were looking forward to start as early as possible, as the prices are good and the demand is always good in November and normally as well in December.”
He explains that the Turkish fig season has finished. “As far as I know, the market is somewhat short and the demand is high. There is some supply from Israel and Peru, and Brazil is only starting. As we started a little early, we are producing good volumes already. We always have a peak in production each month, starting from December. The peak is normally between the 10th till the 20th of December, which normally supplies the Christmas demand. We expect good volumes this season, starting with 10% more in November and again 10% more in December compared to last years.”
Fresher and riper to the market
Brotto figs works with 100% own production spread over two farms. “The trees look healthy, and there are a lot of immature figs with good sizes on the tree. Year by year, we try our ultimate best to have more ripe figs exported to the European market. It’s very perishable fruit, so we are not able to send fully ripe figs. We have to pick a little early, as it takes around 5 days to get our fruit to our final customer.”
“We are developing and trying hard to achieve getting as much as possible ripe figs in the supermarkets. Having more frequent air shipments helps in this, like 4 to 5 times as week. Having fresh and ripe fruit in the market, it’s better for our customers. They demand ripe fruit and dark colour.”
Europe increases demand
According Mauricio, the change of not using Bordeaux mixture in the production process, has led to an increased demand for Brazilian figs. “The Bordeaux mixture wasn´t allowed anymore, so many producers had to switch to alternatives and change the full production process in only a few months’ time. We managed to do so and now we are able to produce figs without any visible residues.”
This has resulted in a good return from the market. “People are accepting more the figs, because they look and taste better. The use of Bordeaux mixture was safe, but it left a white powder on the figs. This change increases demand year by year. For example, after the first year of the change we noticed a 20% increase in exports.”
Brotto figs as a company is working hard to improve the shelf life of figs. “This is a big issue of working with the Brown Turkey variety. We try to find new varieties with, for example a better taste, colour or shelf life. About 20 varieties are on trial now, but it takes time to evaluate the results based on the production, taste and size for example. Some varieties perform well in other countries, but not in Brazil and the other way around.”
In addition to figs, the company introduced red guavas this year. “For now, we export them in small volumes like two pallets a week. However, we believe that it’s a product with high potential because of the health benefits as its rich in vitamin C, A and lycopene . Our goal is to increase exports even though it´s a very common product in Brazil, but not in Europe yet.
Mauricio concludes that besides this new product, they keep increasing capacity in the fig production. “Every year we grow around 10%. Our packing facility is a bit small already, so we decided to build a new packing house. We expect that next season 2019/2020, it will be open and functioning. So we'll be able to continue to grow in the coming years.”