The acreage devoted to fig cultivation in Spain is growing as the demand for the fruit continues to increase across Europe. In countries such as Germany, for example, they are highly appreciated for their gastronomic and healthy qualities.
With 12,998 hectares registered in 2020, according to an official survey, Extremadura is the leading fig producer in the country. Andalusia is in third place, with 2,227 hectares in 2020 (2,067 rainfed and 160 irrigated); a slight growth compared to the 2,151 hectares recorded in 2016.
In fact, more and more companies are deciding to plant fig trees. An example of this is the Huelva-based Flor de Doñana, which describes it as "a good crop to complement the berry season. In July, we finish with the berry campaign and start with the fig one, which lasts for about 2 months," said the company. To be specific, they cultivate 5 hectares and produce about 25 tons each season.
Fig trees in greenhouses
Traditionally, fig production has been rainfed, but more and more producers are choosing to grow figs under irrigation, and even in super-intensive production systems, like olive or almond trees. However, the most innovative initiative when it comes to fig tree cultivation is being carried out in Almería.
Despite the fact that the crop's cultivation is traditional in this province, the commercial potential was very limited. To address this, a Plant Production and Applied Economics research group of the University of Almeria (UAL), together with Anecoop, has started planting fig trees under plastic with the goal of advancing the production by several months and thus have greater commercial opportunities.
Francisco Camacho, professor of Intensive Horticulture at the University of Almeria and coordinator of the project, said that "the expected results have been achieved so far" and fig trees are increasingly producing more.
"In recent years, there has been some stagnation in the profitability of the eight crops that have been traditionally cultivated in Andalusia. Competition from other countries is causing the acreage of some crops to be reduced, while oversupply is being reported for others," says Camacho, highlighting that figs are a crop to keep an eye on in the province.
"In Almeria, there is room for many products that were already cultivated here decades ago and which, with today's techniques and production systems, will always arrive earlier and, therefore, yield better financial results," said the professor of the UAL.