The orange harvest in Cordoba is slower than usual. By this date, producers have usually harvested 35-40% of the fruit. This season, however, they have only collected nearly 25% of the fruit, stated Antonio Carmona, the president of the Palmanaranja Citrus Professional Association.
According to Carmona, the scenario is dominated by little demand for direct operations in the field, low prices, and the regular size of the fruit due to the drought. In addition, Europe is receiving oranges from third countries and consumption isn't being helped by the pandemic, as the population of several countries is confined.
Producers are the base of the food chain and they are cultivating below production costs, Carmona stated. Thus, they are working at 7 cents per kilo when the average is around 10 cents. "It's a very complicated situation," he said. In addition, there are no signs things will improve in the short term.
Apart from the difficulties of the current campaign, producers are worried about the repercussions that the drought will have in the next campaign.
On the other hand, the sector finds itself competing again in the European market against the entry of fruit from third countries. Egypt's campaign coincides with Spain's campaign, Carmona stressed.
Concerns over labor
There are also COVID cases are among the field crews. "Fortunately, there isn't a significant incidence and we are working well," Carmona stated. However, there is concern about the lack of manpower for future campaigns, something that already happens when the demand for fruit peaks.
"Many producers have told us that many workers are returning to construction and that they are joining the hospitality industry earlier than usual, a sector they joined once the campaign was over," Antonio Carmona stated. "Everyone is saying that we are going to have problems shortly."