“The artichoke campaign started in October. Despite the high temperatures that have taken a toll on the product, prices remain at profitable levels for the producers,” says Javier Rillo, production manager of the Benihort cooperative. “Due to higher temperatures than usual, the product has not reached the quality parameters to be marketed as first class or premium. But thanks to the diversification and innovation in varieties, the volumes remain stable and sales are great, satisfying all customers. We are even entering markets where this product was hardly known, as in the case of Germany,” says Javier.
The head of production explains that, in order to start the campaign a little earlier and also extend it, new hybrid varieties are being introduced. “The objective is to fulfil the commitments made with supermarket programs by expanding growing areas and carrying out tests with producers in other regions. This year we have managed to have seven varieties in production. These products meet the needs of different types of customers. France consumes some varieties; Italy prefers others; Spain demands others, etc.”
According to Javier Rillo, while artichokes are a typical product of countries in the Mediterranean basin, consumers in new markets are being persuaded to try them. Although we must bear in mind that the shelf life of this vegetable prevents long distance shipments, “the variety that always stays strong is the one with a protected designation of origin (PDO). We are the only ones in Europe with a PDO. We produce 5 million kilos of artichokes every year, out of which 1 million is marketed under the umbrella of the PDO Alcachofa de Benicarló. Other artichokes with a Designation of Origin (DO) are not comparable,” says Javier.
One of the largest Valencian cooperatives
Benihort was founded almost 75 years ago to sell traditional Spanish products, such as artichoke, cauliflower, cabbage, leek and watermelon. Nowadays, the cooperative is a leading name in the world of cooperativism in the Region of Valencia. In 2018, it produced 35,000 tons of vegetables and 35,000 tons of citrus fruits.
With 2,300 hectares, 20,000 meters of greenhouses and horticultural crops with their corresponding seedlings, nursery plants, etc., its annual production amounts to 70 million kilos of fruits and vegetables, with 50% of its vegetables exported to foreign markets. Europe is the number one destination (mainly Germany, the Netherlands, France, Eastern and Scandinavian countries, and the United Kingdom).
The 1,800 members benefit from technical assistance, fertilizers, phytosanitary products and other necessary products for their daily operations, including infrastructure for machinery and a gas station, as well as services (advice, insurance, telephony, accounting, etc.).
In 2021, Benihort will be 75 years old and it continues working for a better future. “We want our share in the domestic and nearby markets to continue increasing, meeting the demand of buyers and supermarkets. That is why we have created the Main brand,” says Javier Rillo.
Benihort director Guillermo Edo presented the Main brand at the latest edition of Fruit Attraction. “Main is a brand that stands for the quality and variety of our company's products, and which was created with the objective of offering the customers continuity in the service all year round. Main will also allow us to have new product varieties, but always with the guarantee of offering the most traditional flavor.”
“Our products are increasingly professional and the new line aims to innovate by diversifying. Some flagship products marketed under the Main brand are bagged lettuce, Romaine hearts, various artichoke hybrids, etc. Consumers are looking for innovative products. In the case of the violet artichoke, the three varieties that we have launched have been well received in the domestic market. We have also made an effort with the packaging, because this is also important for the marketer and the final consumer,” says Javier Rillo.
“The organic line is also there with Benihort Bio. In this line, a key point is to continue developing the warehouse strategy. This point is vital for organic production, and in particular for citrus fruits, as the handling area must be exclusively adapted,” says Javier Rillo.