The plum campaign started between ten and fifteen days early in Badajoz, the main producing area for this stone fruit in Spain. Production volumes are around 25% lower than last season, and while the first stretch of the season has been good in terms of demand, this is starting to drop worryingly. The sector is also affected by the lack of the Brazilian market this year, which is why a very challenging July is expected.
“The stone fruit campaign is being marked by a high demand and prices, as there is a great shortage of nectarines, which cost twice as much as last year, although peaches, Paraguayo peaches and apricots are also doing well. However, the situation is becoming quite difficult for plums following a good start for varieties such as the Black Splendor, and despite the fact that, with the harvest being advanced, we overlapped with the latest stocks from Chile in various markets. Prices have dropped in a few days from an average of 0.45-0.55 Euro per kilo to 0.30 Euro per kilo," says Justo Redondo, manager of the Extremaduran company Nogal Fruits.
“Now about 5 different varieties are available at the same time, some with a shorter shelf life, which is why many producers are nervous about the lack of demand and are selling the fruit at any price. Red-fleshed plums continue to be sold, but the white-fleshed ones are hardly in demand and I am afraid that part of the production will be left on the trees,” he said.
According to the producer and exporter, “an easy year had been predicted for plums, given that the production was falling by 25% and there was also a drop in the Italian supply, as well as better quality, larger sizes than last season and good demand prospects. However, the loss of the Brazilian market has made everything much more difficult. This country absorbed around 25,000 tons last season, about 1,000 containers, so it accounted for 30% of the sector's demand."
Agricultural producers in Extremadura have managed to reduce some of their production costs in the field, although other extra costs have been added due to the restrictions of the health crisis.
The demand is not only stagnant in Europe, but also in more distant destinations, such as Latin American countries, where the pandemic is more out of control. “In Latin American markets, we are now seeing the same thing that took place in Spain during the worst times of the health crisis. Many greengrocers are closed and there are several countries whose currencies have been significantly devalued. "The economy is suffering and Latin American consumers are choosing to buy local productions, which are cheaper than imports."
In general, there is a lot of pressure on sales. “Operators in the sector know that we do not have Brazil this year and they are taking advantage of this situation to bring prices down. For example, € 1.00 per kilo is being paid at the warehouse for fruit intended to be shipped to destinations like Poland.” According to Justo Redondo, most of the demand undoubtedly comes from the large retail. “Those who do not work with supermarket chains and only produce plums are finding it difficult to sell this year. The truth is that there were more plums available last year, but it was much easier to sell it. It is a pity that producers are suffering another setback after several difficult campaigns in a row.”