Fig trees have been gaining ground in the Spanish Region of Murcia over the last decade, going from only 88 hectares in 2010 to 112 in 2019. However, the most significant increase has not been observed in the acreage, but in the production, which has gone from barely 300 tons to more than 1,500; the highest figure in 45 years. This has been possible thanks to the introduction of irrigation.
Most of the fig trees are currently produced on irrigated land (95 hectares of the 112 currently accounted for). The majority of them, around half of the total, are produced in the Northwest region, which is followed in terms of importance by the Altiplano, with more than a third of the total. The Vega del Segura, the Campo de Cartagena and the Valle del Guadalentín record much smaller figures.
"In recent years, there has been some economic interest in fig trees," says Eduardo Agüera. He's an expert in this fruit tree as a hobby, although with a degree of commitment that has led him to travel "many kilometers around Murcia, Almería or Albacete, looking for and identifying traditional varieties" with the aim of recovering their cultivation.
"Murcia has traditionally been a fig producer," says Agüera before talking about the subsequent reduction in both acreage and production observed over the last few decades. This process, however, seems not only to have stopped, but is being significantly reversed.
Agüera says that a large part of the fig production has traditionally been intended for family consumption and for the fattening of pigs, "and in fact, some varieties were specifically planted for this purpose. Over time ... "as this way of life has been abandoned, there has been a certain loss of interest in this fruit tree," which has contributed to its decline. The interest in figs, he says, could be further increased "if a method could be found to help maintain the organoleptic properties of fresh fruit for longer, as that would allow it to reach more markets."
Agüera says that in some Asian countries, for example, "there is a real passion for figs."
Europe is also a market with great potential. "If German consumers knew that when they buy Turkish dried figs they are eating the pollinating wasps, because they are Smyrna-type varieties, I don't think they would be very happy. Meanwhile, in Spain we have high quality varieties that are perfectly competitive."