A decade ago, several agricultural producers in the Valencian town of Picassent started planting kiwifruit in the region, as they were looking for an alternative to oranges, whose price was falling sharply. The manager of the Agro-Cítrica cooperative, Vicente Fort, said that this town has ended up becoming the largest kiwifruit producer in the entire Region of Valencia, accounting for 180 out of the 300 hectares that are devoted to the fruit's production in the region.
More than 150 families decided to invest part of their savings and apply for bank loans to convert small farms and devote them to the production of green Hayward kiwis and yellow Dori ones. After years of work, this pioneering commitment was starting to be profitable, but the dream may have been trumped because of a huge hailstorm caused by storm Gloria on Wednesday, January 22.
The weather has caused huge losses that the Valencian Association of Agricultural Producers (AVA-Asaja) has estimated at 2 million Euro in the case of production structures, since 70% of them are totally or partially damaged. To this we must add the 1.7 million Euro lost because of the 2,500 tons of kiwis that have been damaged.
Storm Gloria also came with torrential rains (about 600 liters per square meter) that caused landslides. As a result, production structures were torn from the ground. “There are people considering stopping with the production of this fruit,” says Vicente Fort, manager of the Agro-Cítrica cooperative.
“It's all down to figures. To produce one hectare, a 30,000 Euro investment is required. Then it is necessary to wait at least two years, investing 6,000 Euro per year in fertilizers, training, pruning, etc. The third year is when you start producing kiwifruit, although that initial investment, which already amounts to 42,000 Euro, is not yet recovered. In Picassent, the oldest plantations are six or seven years old, since we are talking about a young crop. Now producers are considering giving up, as they still owe bank loans and there is no way to make the production profitable. Two hours of hail have ruined years of work,” says Fort.
Another factor that contributes to producers throwing in the towel is the fact that no one will receive compensations. "The productions were not insured because the policies are too expensive and the mesh of the greenhouses is made to protect the plant from wind and hail," says Vicente Fort.