The first Spanish yellow-fleshed peaches have already reached the Perpignan market. "In the next few days, they will also start to reach the rest of European countries, and by the end of the first half of April we will have both white and yellow-fleshed peaches and nectarines available," says Tanguy Debiesse, director of business development at Royal, who expects a stone fruit production of close to 30,000 tons this campaign.
The Seville-based company starts harvesting in Huelva and continues in Seville and Badajoz, with the same varieties in all producing areas. After July, its peaches and nectarines come from Lleida, while its famous Pluots / Metis arrive in Seville in late May and remain available until the end of November.
“Although we are among the first to reach the markets with our stone fruit, we are not only looking for earliness. Our focus is more on delivering fruit with a good caliber and, above all, flavor. We know that our customers appreciate this more than earliness, although this requires a very efficient handling of the crop in the greenhouses,” says Tanguy Debiesse.
Despite the fact that fruit trees have been uprooted in much of Spain, the acreage in Andalusia remains very similar to that of last year and good yields are expected. In any case, this time of the year is still crucial when it comes to frost risks, which can have a very negative impact on the season's prospects. According to Tanguy, “everything points to there being enough nectarines and peaches in Spain. In Italy, however, they have suffered a severe frost.”
In the words of the company's business development director, “we don't know yet how sales will proceed in the midst of this pandemic crisis, but the situation in the field looks very good at the moment, as the growing conditions have so far been very good, even though the month of February was too hot. Although the situation in Europe is increasingly worrying, given the spread of COVID-19, we can say that we have been harvesting blueberries in Morocco for three months and we have some experience in this situation, implementing all the safety regulations for our personnel, and we feel well-prepared.
However, it is going to be a challenging campaign and perhaps customers will be looking for simplicity, seeking companies that can ensure volumes and quality. In addition, stone fruit is an ideal product for these days of confinement, since its shelf life is longer than that of other products, and many consumers will be looking forward to eating something different, after months of bananas, oranges, and apples. Summer always comes earlier in Andalusia and we want to share it.”
Siego, production director of Royal, with the first box of peaches of 2020.
Founded more than 30 years ago, Royal has handling and packaging plants in Seville and Badajoz. “Fortunately, we are not affected by the shortage of labor, which has become a generalized problem for the sector and which has worsened with the current crisis. Many people from La Rinconada and other towns of the Vega del Guadalquivir, in Seville, have been working for us from the beginning.”
The Royal brand has a great reputation in countries such as France, Italy and Asia. If things went sour in Europe, the good demand from Asian countries (as has been the case in recent campaigns) could help a lot. “At this time, there are no flights to Hong Kong. Our fruit intended for Asia is usually shipped from June onwards. We are confident that we will have a very good campaign in the Asian markets this year,” says Tanguy Debiesse.