The citrus industry is developing in Valencia; the land distribution, the disappearance of some companies and growth of others or the relevance of large retailers are changes that will shape its future in Spain's main producing area, as told to FreshPlaza by Vicente José Serisuelo, marketing director of Serifruit, taking stock of the current campaign so far.
Electronic and mechanised sorting of mandarins.
Citrus with minimum residue exclusive for Europe
"We work with distribution labels in almost all European countries, including Eastern Europe; the main markets are France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Even though we have done overseas shipments in the past, we have not continued on this path. We prefer to specialise in the European market, since we work with minimal post-harvest fruit treatment, which helps us in differentiating ourselves from our competitors," explains Vicente José Serisuelo.
Going without South African quality for mere caution
From July to mid-October, Serifruit starts importing from Argentina and Uruguay to be able to supply oranges year-round. "We have stopped importing from South Africa due to the issues with Black Spot. We mainly purchase Navel and Valencia oranges. It's a shame not to have access to these quality citrus fruits, but we do not wish to jeopardise the safety of our own plantations," he points out.
Mandarins in nets for European supermarkets
Reduced availability of small sizes from December
In the words of Vicente José Serisuelo, "this year we have between 20 and 30% less citrus, as the heat waves in spring caused a considerable loss of flowers. Given the circumstances, the market for now has shown to be quite receptive, with prices significantly above those recorded last season. Price adjustments are always expected to take place from December, as production normally concentrates around that time, but with this year's availability, these will surely be much less marked than last year. Furthermore, from mid-December we anticipate a lower availability of small calibres, for which good prices are normally paid."
As for oranges, he states that "Navelinas have also had a good start, better than last year's; however, large retailers are now beginning to exert great pressure to bring prices down to be able to be more competitive, which in the current campaign's context makes no sense."
The citrus industry is in a process of "natural unification"
"It's very hard for a planned concentration of production to take place in the Spanish citrus sector, as we also compete with third countries, such as Morocco and Egypt. If we united to be able to demand fixed prices to large retailers, we would be paving the way for those third countries, as competition against them at price level is almost impossible. Each company carries out its own marketing and gains the loyalty of its own customers. Other citrus producing countries have concentrated their supply and have lost market power. I think we should accept that we are in a free market, with its advantages and disadvantages," states the marketing director.
Nevertheless, he added that "it is true that there is a 'natural unification' underway, in both fields and at marketing level. If we look back, we see that many small businesses have disappeared, while medium-sized and large firms continue to grow. In the fields, this development can also be observed, since smallholders end up selling their properties to larger producers or simply abandoning them; however, with the generational change the land is passed on and those inheriting it wait a while to decide what to do with it."
Vicente José assures that "the sector should instead unite to boost consumption of products of European origin in our continent. That is our biggest challenge."
Left: Goods ready for shipment. Right: Degreening chamber.
Serifruit acquires packaging plant with more capacity
Serifruit is one of the companies in constant growth. This year they have opened a new plant devoted solely to the handling of oranges. "We had two plants, one in Bechí and another in Villarreal. The need to expand our handling capacity led us to sell the warehouse in Villarreal to open a new, larger one here in Bechí, a few metres from our offices."
In general, Castellon is devoted more to the production of clementines than of oranges, although Serifruit also receives supplies from Valencia, Tarragona and Andalusia.
Limes and kumquats "made in Valencia"
Even though Serifruit is specialised in citrus fruits, it also markets Piel de Sapo melons, yellow melons and watermelons, and it has recently invested in the production of persimmons. But what really stands out is its own production of kumquats and limes, something harder to find in Valencian fields and of which they produce about 200,000 tonnes for both the domestic and international markets, with availability from August to November.
"The quality of these limes is superior to that of the Brazilian and Mexican fruit because of the proximity. Our limes can reach the market a week after they are harvested, while the overseas product takes about thirty days. Differences in flavour and aroma are significant. Vicente José explains that this year's lime campaign has been a strange one. It is a product whose prices tend to remain stable, but this year there has been a lot of oscillation. Average prices have stayed below 1.00 Euro per kilo, which is very unusual."
"We are experimenting with pomegranates at the moment; we never discard the possibility of working with products that may have a promising future."