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Josè Vercher - citrus fruit sector must change its mentality

"Spain and Italy have a lot in common from an agricultural point of view and have to deal with the same problems," explained Josè Vercher (in the photo below), general director of "Bollo International Fruit", one of the leading Spanish businesses for the production and marketing of citrus fruit, during the "Evolution and perspective of future citrus fruit cultivation" convention. 

Vercher stressed that Bollo started as a family-run company in 1922 and has since become an international firm. "We sell around 120,000 tons of citrus fruit, melons, watermelons etc. a year."

"We are passionate about being the best both in terms of quality and professionalism towards our producers, clients and consumers. Everything has its value."

Since the beginning, the company felt it important to supply its products throughout the year - "that is why we started working on the international market. We process citrus fruit from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, South Africa and Peru during the summer as well as melons from Brazil and Senegal. Ten years ago, we opened a branch in Brazil, which covers 8,000 hectares and has two 6,000 sq m warehouses. Last year, we produced 30,000 tons of melons in Brazil and 5,000 tons of melons and watermelons in Senegal."

In Spain, Bollo produces between 24 and 26 thousand tons of citrus fruit. "We introduced two new varieties a few years ago - Orogros and Cultifort. They are ready a week after Clemenruby and a week before Oronules. We are also experimenting with Nero and Octubrina, which could cover mid-October to mid-November." 

As regards tangerine-like fruit, he talked about Nadorcott, Orri and Tango. After many years of high prices, Nadorcott has finally dropped by 15 cents, though this variety will probably be affected by the popularity of Tango, which is practically identical and has no seeds. "Orri wholesale prices hover around €1.80-2.30/kg. 2,500 hectares have already been planted both in Spain and Israel."

Vercher also added that "Italy has good soil, abundant water and ideal weather. I believe the only problem is the mentality - they should be more open to innovation and change. Differentiation is the only way to keep prices high."

Francesco Perri, agronomist and citrus fruit cultivation expert, and Josè Vercher.

"They also have the advantage that supermarkets require domestic produce. The fact then that Italy imports 60,000 tons of clementines from Spain is just unbelievable. If all the produce sold in Italy was of Italian origin, it would make it necessary to double the production, but it would also mean having to widen the varietal range. You cannot think of running a business with just two cultivars."

But who is Josè Vercher? Marco Eleuteri explains it to us
"I have the simplest tastes, I am always satisfied with the best - this Oscar Wilde aphorism fully reflects the philosophy with which Josè Vercher runs his company," explains Marco Eleuteri, sales manager of AOP Armonia.

Josè Vercher with Marco Eleuteri.

"He is one of the leading figures behind the recent agreement between Israel and Spain concerning Orri clementines. In Spring, he represented the delegation of Spanish producers who negotiated with Volvani Center lawyers to define the cultivation of the variety in Spain. After agreeing on paying €110 million over 6 years to the Israeli, Orri has become a Club variety."

"I have known him for twenty years. I still remember meeting him in 1996, right after I graduated. My father had sent me to work with San Miguel's sales manager for the Mediterranean. I had just unloaded 2,000 tons of lemons from a ship. There was not enough room for it in the storage units and we had to start shipping them quickly because it was too hot to leave them outside." 

"I was panicking. In the end, some of the main operators came to see the produce and each one bought a few trucks. Vercher was among them, and I still remember that there was something different about him."

"I would have to say that, after my grandfather and my father, he has been the person that has mostly influenced me professionally - he is an example. The fact that he attended the convention was an honour."

"I hope that Italian entrepreneurs will listen to his advice - we need to change our mentality, it is one of the main differences between us and Spain."

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