Year Overview 2018: March & April

The month of March should open the doors to spring, but there was a lot more to share during these months. The grape season was in full swing for the Southern hemisphere, while we saw some very neat ideas when it came to robots used in agriculture. Although not all were on the same scale as Fruit Logistica, we visited a lot of events. It also seemed that news from the citrus sector wasn’t about to settle down after February…

The period was a busy one, especially for T&G Global, which not only sold its fruit processing branch, but also announced their new CEO and COO. A New Zealand kiwifruit grower has sold out of the Zespri Group after opposing constitutional changes at the monopoly export body that tied shareholdings to trays of fruit produced. 

The grape season had started in the Southern hemisphere, which seemed like a great opportunity for a US agriculture investor to expand into the grape business. Meanwhile the demand for white seedless grapes kept growing, the new Australian jumbo grape ‘variety’ was taking Japan by storm and Australia figured they’d have a crack at supplying table grapes year round in the future . This is impressive considering the Australian continent had proven very challenging for the first, pioneering grape growers. Not all was positive though, as a company from Chile predicted the Thompson and Red Globe varieties would exit the market in a few years.

Many hectares of berries were devastated by the tornadoes and strong gusts of wind that struck Huelva. The most affected areas, which are located on the border with Portugal, were Ayamonte, Isla Cristina, Cartaya, Lepe, and Trigueros. According to Freshuelva, the tornadoes and winds knocked down greenhouses, damaged structures, and damaged part of the production.

Some might look at robots with a feeling of distrust, wondering if they’ll ever take over the world. Those who can put these feelings aside, will have seen some very neat innovative ways to use the robots for agriculture. What do you think about this new packing robot, devoted to packing apples as if its life depends on it. Although one might not classify this as a true robot, one can’t look at this self-service pineapple peeler and not wonder where the potential of technology will end. A company from New Zealand is asking that very question, while creating all sorts of robots for the horticulture. Think pollination systems, robot quality control or better traceability systems. Another little robot is getting ready to harvest the asparagus without any help from us mere humans. The same goes for this little fellow in Florida, who has dedicated its robot-life to harvesting strawberries. Hopefully, this kind of development will solve a lot of labor issues in the future!

FreshPlaza visits a lot of events throughout the year, some of which may even be unknown to you. No fear though, as we always release a visually appealing photo report, so its like you were actually there. Whether it’s Southern Exposure in Florida, PMA China or even the Global Berry Congress, you can be assured somebody from FreshPlaza was there. In March and April we also visited the Viva Fresh Expo in Texas, flew to Greece and attended Freskon 2018 and even found the time to take a stroll on the floors of the Canadian Produce Marketing Assocation (CPMA), of which we also created a photo report.

The citrus industry continued with even more losses to Spanish citrus due to rainfall and strong winds. Meanwhile South African consumers were able to start enjoying the Tango mandarins from Spain, well before their own local harvest. New trends in citrus fruit production were coming up as California finally saw some light at the end of their season as supply reached a stable amount. Their sizes were slightly too big though. During this time we wrote a global market overview, with details of the orange sector in all corners of the world. In Spain there was a case of illegal marketing of the Orri mandarins, resulting in 92 legal actions against the illegal exploitation, which were mostly in Valencia. Australian growers decided to let go of the local market and switch their focus towards export based production. A new variety of mandarins called Spring Sunshine was claimed to be the world’s tastiest. And for those wanting to compare predictions with actual numbers, it was thought that the US citrus production would fall further as the year would go on.

The avocado’s popularity kept rising, with demand increasing by double digits every year. Europeans were finally warming up to the Hass avocado instead of the greenskin variety. Fairtrade also made its appearance in the avocado market, with a North American grower launching a Fairtrade program. Peru, Mexico and South Africa expected larger avocado volumes in the summer, but there were no concerns of an oversupply for the market. The fact that avocados have been in a lift for years was proven by the Hass Avocado Board, who pointed out that avocado consumption in the US had grown by 250%. Meanwhile in South Africa, a grower looked to the apple cultivation for inspiration.

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