The Greek strawberries have had some significant challenges this season, leading to a decrease in production of about 30%. The cold weather was partly to blame for this, as acreage had actually increased compared to last year. Demand has been very strong, from both Asia and Europe.
Nick Nafpliotis, director of Greek fruit company Greek and Fresh, claims it’s been a rough season for the strawberries in Greece this year: “It has been a very challenging strawberry season, which is completely the opposite compared to last year. Despite a significant increase in the planted acreage of about 20%, we saw a decrease in the production by about 30%. This was attributed to multiple reasons. First off, the weather. We started the season with very cloudy weather during October and November, and later we had unusually cold weather from December until March. In mid-January, we've had a lot of snowfall, even 60cm in Athens, and March was one of the coldest in the last 15 years, with average temperatures reduced by 3.6 degrees Celsius.”
“Secondly, there’s the plants themselves. There were quality problems with the propagating material, which resulted in great losses after transplanting. Finally, there’s the aspect of varieties. There’s also been some varietal changes, the main one being the acreage reduction of Fortuna, to other varieties such as Victory, Rociera and Calderon. These factors combined have resulted in lower production of strawberries in Greece this year.”
The beginning of the season started of really well, despite the challenges of supply, Nafpliotis explains. “After a very successful previous season, which established Greek strawberries to the European retailers, there were high expectations and very good demand from the very beginning of this season. Although supply was limited this early in the season, quality was very good and the growers enjoyed good price levels.”
Demand in Europe still going strong right now, according to Nafpliotis. “The demand for Greek strawberries in Asia and Gulf was also strong from the beginning of March and continues so far. Unfortunately, airfreight availability is still limited and so we ended up sending less volume than we could have. Freight prices have increased from March onwards as well. At the moment, I see a very strong demand for strawberries throughout Europe, which is expected to continue well into May, as we see that the summer fruit, like watermelons and stone fruits, season comes with a delay of about two weeks.”
Nafpliotis is positive when looking forward to the next strawberry season, as production should be on a better level than it was this year: “Despite the problems of this season, there is a positive feeling about the production of strawberries in general. For next season, we expect a further increase in planting acreage, although not as much as this season. The much higher construction cost of the tunnels is expected to influence the new investments going forward. Greece will continue to be an important supplier of strawberries to the European retail sector.”