Alberto Garrocho, president of Freshuelva, gave an interview to the newspaper Huelva Información to talk about the 2019 strawberry campaign, its balance and the problems they have faced and which need urgent solutions.
"This year, we have enjoyed an exceptional quality throughout the year; however, as far as the volume is concerned, it has been a very strange campaign, given the loss of many plants and the need to replant some of them. The estimates point to about 25% of the acreage being affected," said Garrocho.
The strawberry production marketed has been reduced by 4% in the 18th week of the campaign compared to the previous one, while that of raspberries has grown by 7.5%. As regards the blueberry one, the campaign is reaching its peak. As for prices, that of strawberries has fallen in week 18, while that received by raspberry producers has increased by 6.2% compared to the previous week, even though it is still lower than in the same week of the previous two seasons. As for blueberries, the price at origin continues to decline. In week 18, it has fallen by more than 7% compared to the previous one. We hope that in the final stretch of the campaign, prices will go up a bit, especially given the scarcity of strawberries in the market.
"Blueberry growers are the ones going through the greatest difficulties," says Garrocho. "The excess production is making the situation tougher. There are producers who have uprooted plants because the sector has entered into a dynamic that makes them unable to be competitive. The Moroccan competition is very strong, as huge plantations have been set up there, just like in Portugal. Exporting to China may be a solution, but trying to boost the domestic consumption could also be very interesting."
"We are very concerned about the lack of laborers. By mid-March, companies should already have a full, trained staff, and this has not been the case this year. We are going to ask the Spanish Administration to look for new countries to recruit laborers." Morocco is Huelva's main competitor in the production of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, although France and Italy are also producing countries.
The United Kingdom is the third biggest market for the export of strawberries, with 16% in 2018, so the uncertainty about Brexit is taking a toll on Huelva's berry sector.