The cherry campaign is starting soon for companies such as Alsat, with 103 hectares in Alcarràs, Lleida, which expects to harvest 1,000 tons.
"Currently, prices are unstable, given the different cherry qualities on the market, the scarcity and the temperatures, which do not motivate consumption. A steady increase is expected with the arrival of quality production," explains Andrea Talpos, commercial director of Alsat.
In Spain, the total cherry production is expected to fall by 15%, but this doesn't apply to Alsat. "With each campaign, we expand our acreage, so the global production is not affected," says the commercial director.
With the new plantings of innovative varieties (Red Nimba, Red Pacific, Tulare, Frisco, Prime Giant, 4-84, Celeste, Chelan, Teiton Summerset, Sonata and Lapins), sizes reaching 30 mm or more are expected: "We are discarding soft varieties like the Early Bigi, Santina, Sonata and Satin, which are sensitive to climatic changes and problematic in rainy or acidic conditions (3-13)," says Andrea Talpos.
About 70% of Alsat's total production is stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches, Paraguayo peaches and platerinas), with old varieties constantly replaced with more productive ones with better organoleptic qualities as far as appearance (size and color), taste (Brix degrees) and firmness are concerned.
The characteristics that define our production are: size, sweetness and a crunchy texture, with the latter being highly appreciated by the final consumer.
A vital stage to obtain quality cherries is the thinning. "At Alsat, we apply an innovative mechanical process, automated and free of chemical agents, that guarantees size and quality," explains Andrea Talpos.
"A differentiated product will have to deal with little direct competition. In the case of our premium quality cherries with calibers equaling or exceeding 30 mm, almost the entire production is exported to Hong Kong, Singapore, the Arab Emirates, Caribbean countries and all of Europe, including the Nordic countries," says the commercial director.
The company is committed to implementing technological innovation in the selection and packaging processes. "By working closely with our technical team, we are able to perform exhaustive controls in each phase: cultivation, harvesting, storage, handling and distribution. The technology also allows us to guarantee food security and an accurate sorting with as little manual handling as possible. Our system with machine vision cameras allows us to sort the fruit by caliber, color and Brix degrees," says Andrea Talpos.
"We also adapt to the market as far as packaging is concerned. In 2018, we launched a new premium format for the gourmet sector: a bonbon box with 33 carefully selected cherries, size 36/+mm. The result is attractive and luxurious," says Andrea.
These boxes are sustainable and environmentally-friendly. "Our containers are 100% biodegradable. Plastic packaging has been left behind. The needs of the market and consumers change and we are constantly adapting to be able to meet them. The fact that families are increasingly smaller has given rise to our 250gr and 1kg boxes, although we also continue offering the traditional 2 kg and 5 kg formats," says Andrea Talpos.
Alsat makes use of renewable energies and is the company with the largest surface of solar panels in the country.