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Spanish import season in full swing

Keeping a grip on short supply chain with own production

As soon as summer reaches its end in the low countries, the import of greenhouses vegetables from Spain always starts again. This year the start was calm and supply gradually got into its stride. Yet the import season appears to be starting earlier in recent years, although ‘the Spaniards’ also continue in spring and even early in summer longer. Early in November, the season has already started a while ago, but the proper volumes haven’t started to arrive yet. How did the start of the import season for Spanish greenhouse vegetables go, and what are the expectations for the remainder of the season?

“In principle, we have production in Spain throughout the year,” says Steven van Dessel. As a Belgian in Spain, he’s on top of the facts. As of this year, Global Agro Produce started with a distribution centre for fresh produce in Venta Gaspar, in the Almería province. In October, they started after a preparatory period that began in January. In a warehouse near the airport and less than two kilometres from the motorway, the greenhouse vegetables of various regional growers come together. “We receive products every day. We handle the vegetables in our warehouse, where we inspect, sort and pack them. The vegetables are then pre-cooled for transport. Vegetables that arrive on Monday morning, for example, leave that same evening in lorries driving to various European destinations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Scandinavia, Hungary and Romania.”

Completely in control with own production
A short supply chain is becoming more and more important nowadays. “We all know that links between producer, supermarket and consumer have to be as short as possible nowadays. Customers want to know where the product they buy comes from, and the product has to be fresh. Global Agro Produce takes care of everything from production to end user.”

The number of importers with their own production company appears to be increasing, Steven confirms. “You don’t really have an option anymore nowadays. Prices are decided by supermarkets, and not by importers, as was the case in the past. We might guide prices a bit, but it then becomes important to know what happens to the product from step A to step Z.”

Global Agro Produce works with producers form the region, and is therefore not a production company in fact. However, they have plenty of plans to become one. “Our goal is to have our own production in greenhouses we control.” In principle, Global Agro Produce already has its own production. “We don’t own the greenhouses yet, but it’s a very small difference. For instance, we’re already conducting the inspections for the growers, and we let them know what to plant so that we can meet demand.”

Forty per cent organic greenhouse vegetables
Tomatoes in particular were planted in smaller amounts this year. “More and more demand for flavour tomatoes can be noticed. Not as many round tomatoes are planted because of that.” A growing demand can also be noticed for the organic greenhouse vegetable segment. “That segment now consists of 40 per cent of our total.”

Expectations are high for the season. “It’s looking well at the moment, both in terms of quantity and quality. But the weather makes or breaks everything. Mid-October it rained a lot, for example, and various crops became flooded.”

Germany early and fewer tomatoes
When asked to make a prediction for the remainder of the import season for Spanish greenhouse vegetables, he says: “The season started a while ago, but it doesn’t properly start until November. We started earlier, we’ve done so for years. Early in October we received the first supply of courgettes and aubergines, but we shouldn’t expect miracles. Prices for import won’t be great as long as the Dutch and Belgian seasons aren’t over yet.”

Although Spanish product arrives early in the import season it’s difficult to start early, according to the importer. “It’s no use importing as long as Belgium and the Netherlands still have plenty of domestic product, no matter how early Spain starts. Despite this, the early Spanish import does affect the market.” Spanish product can often be found early in German wholesaler’s markets in particular. “The Germans appear to care less about the country of origin of their products, whether it’s Belgium, the Netherlands or Spain.”

Fewer tomatoes were planted in Spain this season, while the bell pepper and aubergine areas increased. “In Belgium, the year-round illuminated production of tomatoes, particularly vine tomatoes, increases. The import of tomatoes declined considerably because of this. This is also the case in the Netherlands.” Spain also has competition from other southern countries, and Morocco and Turkey stand out most, according to the importer. “An increase can be seen in both countries, but particularly in Morocco. The quality of the product has increased due to new production technologies.” However, Spain continues to have an advantage in the field of logistics. “Spain now offers more flexibility, and transport takes less long. In Morocco and Turkey, the geographic position is more unfavourable, resulting in a boat crossing or more transport miles.”

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