The Perpignan-based company STM BIO just started its apricot campaign with the very first early varieties, Colorado and Wonder Cot, produced in Millas (Pyrénées-Orientales), on a farm run by the 3rd generation. Soon, other typical varieties will follow: Big Red, Royal Roussillon, Spring Blush and Orange Ruby, easily recognizable by their famous red facet.
There is a small novelty this year for STM BIO. The company is becoming the marketer for a group of producers, in addition to its own production. “Besides converting our land, buying out the family farm to ensure continuity on the land and especially on the production/marketing part, we had the opportunity last month to become the marketer for a local SICA group of 8 producers,” explains Michael Sanchez Escriva. “Our objective is to support the producers by bringing an alternative to their historical and current commercial force. Thanks to our experience, we possess the keys to the organic market, from the specialized network to direct sales and wholesalers.”
© STM BIO
High prices at the beginning of the season
The apricot season is starting with fluid sales and high prices. “We started a week ago with the apricot and so far, we have managed to obtain a fair remuneration for producers and consumers, with a price fixed at 4 euros [4.87 USD].”
In terms of packaging, the larger calibers are sold in trays, as well as in bulk (6 kg) for wholesalers and stores. The trays are made for the smaller calibers, mostly intended for supermarkets.
Freshness and quality are a priority
At STM BIO, freshness and quality are a priority. Therefore, the harvest only takes place when the fruit has reached optimal ripeness. “Our goal is not to be the first to start a line or variety. Customers must first and foremost be pleased with the flavors. We begin with the harvest only when the sugar levels of the fruit are ideal and this year, the Brix index is excellent for the apricots, between 15 and 20.”
And in order to guarantee freshness, the products are harvested in the morning, taken directly to the packaging station to then be shipped to the client. “We work on a just-in-time basis. There is no cold storage. The harvest takes place on demand, and we draw the harvest plan each day with the producer.”
Because of the frost in April, there is a 25 to 30% loss for the apricot production. However, STM BIO will conclude this year with 30 hectares of their own local production (stone fruit, pome fruit and vegetables) and nearly 100 tons in total with the SICA group.
© STM BIO
A production valued at 100%
STM BIO works with processing plants for the products that are out of size, misshapen or too ripe, in order to avoid losses and value the entire production. “As producers, we are aware that our trees do not only give standardized fruit so we also value the fruit that cannot be sold via the traditional channels. We have developed a commercial line for the industrial part and work with local processing plants manufacturing jams, juices and nectars.”
The STM BIO products are exported
STM BIO is also present on the export scene, mostly shipping to England and Belgium. This year, after the cherries, it will be the turn of the apricots to cross the borders. “These clients are mostly interested in visual and taste quality. They used to work directly with Spain but have now chosen to work with us.”