In the last four months, three boats from the Brazilian company Citrosuco have supplied pasteurized squeezed orange juice to the Andalusian bottling company Don Simón, belonging to the J. García Carrión group; something that had not happened before. The last mega-ship to arrive on the shores of Huelva loaded with juice after setting sail from São Paulo was the Premium do Brasil, with a total capacity of four million liters.
Antonio Moreno, the head of the plant in Huelva, assured us that the amount imported by sea from Brazil doesn't account for more than 2% of the total production sold by García Carrión. "It is destined for the English market. There is no change in strategy. A part of that market prefers juices from Brazil and this is our way of entering chains like Tesco. Thanks to that juice we can market the remaining 98% of our production, which is made with Spanish oranges. Before, we used to bring it in tanker trucks from northern Europe. But shipping it by boat is much more ecological and fits into our policy of reducing emissions," he said.
Despite García Carrión's explanations, contribution to the Spanish countryside, and agreements with national farmers, the Spanish citrus sector is unnerved by the docking of Citrosuco's mega-vessels. Local producers fear that the entry of Brazilian ships could consolidate and have an even greater impact on prices and their ability to sell the local production. Depending on the season, national orange producers allocate 10% to 20% of their production to the juice industry. This output is key to making a profit from the oranges that are in bad conditions or that don't have the size to be marketed, but also to prevent prices from falling when there is an excess of production in the market.
"We are worried because it is a very strong competition," stated Cristobal Aguado, president of the Valencian Association of Farmers (AVA-Asaja). "Brazil exports most of its juice to the United States and Europe, mainly concentrated. But now it has a fleet of more modern ships and can transport fresh juice. We ask García Carrión to buy all that they can in Spain. Juice imports from Brazil can upset market prices. In addition, they use active substances (pesticides) that are prohibited here. It is unfair competition."
"There should be no doubt," stated Moreno, from García Carrión. "We are the first defenders of the Spanish field. Right now we have 1,500 hectares in operation on the farm that produced the most oranges in all of Europe," he said. "In addition, we have rented another 500 hectares in Huelva to expand the productive capacity of Spanish oranges, including varieties that had been abandoned."