The summer season is coming ever closer. Time for summery stone fruit and time for an interview with Matthijs Vlasblom and Nico Veldhoen of Staay-Hispa. The two men are responsible for Staay’s complete stone fruit import from Spain.
On 16 April, Staay Food Group received the first packages of nectarines and peaches. For the start of the season, however, the stone fruit specialist sticks to week 18 for peaches and nectarines, week 19 for the first apricots and week 21 for paraguayo peaches. The Spanish cherries in Valle del Jerte are also said to be developing well. It’s expected the season can start in the fourth week of April.
Stone fruit is one of Staay Food Group’s major specialities. For more than 25 years, the company has supplied peaches, nectarines, paraguayo peaches, apricots, plums and cherries in large volumes from Spain. “Thanks to our close cooperation with a select group of professional growers, we’re able to guarantee optimum quality for these volumes throughout the summer season,” Nico says.
Long season from April to September
“The kick-off of our Spanish stone fruit season takes place in April every year. The first harvest is traditionally picked by our producer in the Seville region and consists of nectarines and peaches. The Murcia region starts a little later. The paraguayo peaches, plums and apricots complete the range. The production is then continued in Badajoz, and it’s finished in the Lerida region.” Because of this, Staay Food Group is capable of supplying a large volume in the proper summer months from June to September.
Cherries of terraced production
The cherries in the Valle del Jerte (Extremadura) are grown on terraces, high in the mountains, between springs and in pure air. The professionally managed cooperative consists of a large number of growers. This ensures a spreading of risks and a long cherry season. From late April to mid August, Staay Food Group supplies various varieties of cherries. These include the Picota; a ‘crispy’ cherry variety with a high Brix content (meaning it’s very sweet) and without stems. With its protected origin name, this cherry is exclusively grown in this valley. The exclusive Picota cherries are available in the months of June, July and August.
According to Matthijs, a lot of producers are proud family companies of which they’ve personally known the owners for generations, in some cases. “This results in short lines with the production for our customers. We regularly personally (or with our customers) visit the production regions for personal inspections. The producer also joins the annual conversations with customers, and we all work together to achieve a custom-made action plan.”
Sustainable production without waste
Due to the transfer of knowledge from generation to generation, the production is incredibly professional with a lot of respect towards nature. Moreover, according to Nico, they make hardly any use of pesticides, and when they do, they’re carefully chosen and used. “The growers work with a system that can prevent pollution of surface water by means of micro-organisms, it’s wonderful to see!” Matthijs adds: “Cherries that don’t meet the requirements aren’t thrown away but processed into jam products and liquors, for example. Even the stones are used, in pillows, for instance.”
A good season guaranteed
Because of the collection of large-scale growers and the spreading of the companies across Spain, Staay can guarantee a constant volume throughout the stone fruit season (under regular circumstances). “Moreover, we’re capable of always informing our customers about the current situation in the production, so they can respond to that. In exceptional cases, we can supply product within 24 to 36 hours to central sales points of Staay Food Group or directly to customers in the Netherlands and neighbouring regions,” Nico concludes.
Outside of the Spanish season, Staay also supplies plums, peaches and nectarines from countries including South Africa and Chile.