The southeastern coast of Andalusia has farms growing vegetables to supply the European market all year round. In fact, it is estimated that the greenhouses of the provinces of Granada and Almeria alone account for about 60% of all fruits and vegetables needed by the continent, with a production model in which high efficiency and quality go hand in hand with sustainability, and in which organic agriculture has acquired a special role. This is the case of LQA Thinking Organic.
"We are focused on the production of organic zucchini and cucumber. We produce zucchini 10 months a year and cucumber between August and November. Both are very intensive crops that develop very quickly and require a great deal of specialization. We have now finished planting cucumbers and in 4 weeks we will start harvesting."
"We work mainly through campaign programs with supermarkets and importers that supply retailers in Germany and the United Kingdom, although this year we are going to carry out a thorough review of our work system," says José Manuel Escobar. "85-90% of the volume of vegetables we produce is absorbed by 20-25% of our customers. The other
10-15% of the production goes to a large number of short-term buyers in France and the Netherlands who make occasional purchases based on product demand in the wholesale markets, and who also cause increases in our insurance coverage costs.
"That is why we are going to focus on that 20-25% of fixed customers, so we can offer them a more personalized supply 365 days a year and produce in accordance with their demands and the dates on which they need the product."
Photo: José Manuel Escobar
"We do not seek to be the biggest, but we do seek to be a leader in terms of service, quality and sustainability. We are a small company. Here in Almeria there are large Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organizations (FVPO) that deliver large volumes of organic vegetables; but at the moment, the demand for our organic zucchini exceeds our production," says José Manuel.
"Our product is in high demand in the export market because it is perceived as a quality, tasty product with a long shelf life. In fact, at LQA Thinking Organic we harvest the product and put it directly in the end customer's packaging. That allows the shelf life of our products to be three times longer than normal."
Little by little and, in general, the protected farming sector in Almeria and the Coast of Granada is working to ensure a smooth transition to the European campaigns in this year in which production costs have been a real challenge for farms. However, the uncertainty and, let's face it, the fear of an energy crisis on the continent in the coming months, when energy demand will soar, lead us to think that the Spanish campaign, which relies exclusively on the sun, could be extended beyond its traditional dates.
"We have been sending our customers our weekly estimates until February. We try to keep our customers informed to prevent or salvage problems of all kinds that could affect the supply and consumption," says José Manuel. "I think that the coming season is going to be very interesting for Mediterranean agriculture in general and for Almeria in particular, as the gap left by European producers will have to be filled."
The LQA Thinking Organic farm is much more than a farm; in addition to holding training workshops and having facilities for organic agritourism, it has an extensive art gallery.