The strawberry campaign continues in Huelva with limited volumes due to replanting problems with some varieties and low temperatures, which slow fruit growth down. However, prices are high and there is a good demand for Spanish strawberries, according to Victoria Martín, Marketing Manager of the company AgroMartín, of Grupo PlusBerries. She met with FreshPlaza during our visit to Lepe's plantations, where around 8,000 tons of strawberries and about 3,000 tons of green-house early stone fruit are produced each year.
Victoria Martín, Marketing Manager at AgroMartín.
"We started with the first strawberry sales of the campaign in mid-December. At the beginning of the campaign, we noticed that the European markets are hungry for Spanish strawberries and actually prefer them, when there is availability, over those from other countries, such as Morocco or Egypt, which start about a month before us. The European distribution chains value the proximity of Spanish strawberries, their quality protocols and food safety," says Victoria Martín.
This year, AgroMartín has 24 more hectares planted with strawberries than last season, and for the first time, it has 17 hectares of Zero Residue certified production. "We are trying to adapt to this growing trend which demonizes the use of chemical treatments, which can harm our health. The rules for the fruit's production and handling are consequently becoming increasingly strict. At the moment, our crops are grown with integrated and zero waste production methods, and in the next campaign we will have 16 hectares for organic production. These are currently in the second year of their conversion process."
However, the biggest news for PlusBerries this campaign is the commercial launch of the new Candela strawberry variety. Its official presentation will take place in the next edition of Fruit Logistica, although we have already had the chance to verify that it is a strawberry with a very sweet flavor and soft texture that also stands out for its shelf life and its resistance to pests.
"At Plus Berries, we are specialist producers. We, as AgroMartin, focus in the production of strawberries and stone fruit." The group is also formed by Frutas Remolino (raspberry specialists), La Canastita (blackberry specialists), Frutas Hermanos Pulido y Tilla (blueberry specialists) and the Extremadura-based Caver (mid and late season stone fruit, broccoli and pomegranate specialists).
The most important markets for Plus Berries are Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Austria, although they are increasingly present in Spanish supermarkets, "in which we are seeing a significant growth of our sales," says Victoria. "The fact that our stone fruit is the first to hit the market and that we're also able to offer the entire range of berries makes us attractive to distribution chains. We offer them a comprehensive and complemented supply."
This year, the Huelva-based company will have strawberry production during the 12 months of the year for the first time. This is due to the fact that it has new plantations in the north of Spain. At the same time, it will also be able to supply stone fruit all year round thanks to its imports from other origins, such as South Africa and Chile.