As the start of the European Picota Cherry season approaches in mid-June, the farmers who are growing this exclusive European variety are following rigorous quality control procedures that grant the Picota its DO (Denomination of Origin) status. This seal certifies its exceptional sweetness, traceability, and European quality. From the handpicking of each individual cherry to its unique health benefits, the sustainable and traditional production of the Jerte Picota cherry is an example of European fruit production at its finest.
Picota cherry growers in the European Jerte Valley are looking forward to an abundant harvest following this year’s annual cherry blossom, signalling the start of the European Picota season, which lasted for almost 3 weeks in April. The arrival of the blossom in the sunny weather meant that the valley enjoyed one of the most impressive blossom landscapes of the last few years.
The Jerte Valley is located 200km west of Madrid, in Northern Extremadura. Over one million cherry trees are grown on the slopes of the mountain, on terraces. When the cherries are ready to be harvested at optimum ripeness, they are hand-picked off the trees, leaving the stalks behind, and placed into chestnut baskets. This method has been handed down from generation to generation. The cherries are then sorted one-by-one, at the base of the trees, as the farmers select only the best ones to be sold and eaten. The Picota cherries are then packaged in the Jerte Valley and shipped off to their final destinations.
Miguel Ángel Durán, Export Manager, Agrupacion De Cooperativas Valle Del Jerte, said: “This year we have experienced a cold winter - the low temperatures make the trees more resilient, and so in the spring they are now primed to bear good quality fruit. The spring has been very favourable with mild temperatures, which has helped the bees to play their part, and the pollination process has been excellent. Thanks to all these climatic conditions, we are expecting a very good European Picota cherry campaign, both in terms of volumes and quality.”
The predicted Picota volumes destined for the UK this season are higher than last year. Durán said: “We hope to hit 5 million kg, which will mean selling 25% more cherries than in 2020. UK consumers want to see more Picota cherries on the shelves this year because the supermarkets position them as the ideal natural snack during the summer.”
The total estimated Picota volumes for 2021 are 21 million kilos, of which 50-60% will be exported worldwide, and the rest sold in the domestic market.
Agrupación is this year taking advantage of a new promotional venture with Chafea, which will give them the opportunity to get Europe’s naturally stalkless cherry to more consumers. Durán adds: “With the support from Chafea, the focus of the campaign will now be on the quality and traceability of European products such as Picota cherries. The main objective of this year’s campaign is to raise awareness of the traditional, healthy, and sustainable harvesting methods that the European Valle del Jerte uses, so that UK shoppers are aware of the unique characteristics and benefits of Picotas.”
Durán explains that the UK supermarkets are already looking ahead to resolve any potential setbacks posed by Brexit to guarantee the Picota supply: “Because of this, we have decided to assign a large part of this year’s crop to the UK market. While it is true that the logistical challenge will be greater this year, we will be able to work around it without any problems to provide the Picotas and cherries when the time arrives.”
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