The Region of Murcia, one of the largest producers of leafy vegetables and brassicas in Spain, expects a reduction in the supply in December due to the unusual weather conditions in autumn and the lower supply of broccoli and cauliflower.
"Until a few days ago, we have enjoyed (or suffered) unusual, almost summer-like weather, and plants are affected by it," said Juan Manuel Ruiz Soler, commercial director of Kettle Produce Spain. "The production cycles have been shortened compared to what was programmed by our production technicians and we are already seeing the impact of this at the start of December, both in terms of quality and quantity. In other words, what should be harvested now has already been harvested two weeks in advance."
"Temperatures have dropped in recent days and the quality is significantly improving, but there has also been a slowdown in the development of plantations and a drop in the production, so we expect a lower supply than usual in December," warns Juan Manuel Ruiz.
The weather has also had an impact on the transition of the production from central and northern Europe. "The good weather has not been exclusive to our region. Until recently, practically all of Europe was enjoying very good weather, which has allowed local productions to be extended and to overlap a bit with the start of the Spanish season. In turn, vegetable consumption has also been affected, as it usually increases with colder temperatures. Fortunately, temperatures have been clearly decreasing both at origin and destination, and the demand is growing higher week after week," said the commercial director of Kettle Produce Spain.
It is worth recalling that the acreage devoted to broccoli and cauliflower cultivation for the first part of the export campaign has been reduced. "It is true that the broccoli and cauliflower acreage has been reduced, especially in the case of the productions that are not under programs, which makes it harder to estimate. This is easily understandable if we look at the poor results achieved in the previous season by many growers, who suffered the impact of the brutal rise in costs, in addition to other aspects, such as uncertainty with the water supply. In the end, growers wished to avoid taking more risks, given the current inflationary context. If we had to mention a percentage decrease in the acreage, it would not be unreasonable to estimate it at around 15% in this initial phase of the campaign," said Juan Manuel Ruiz.
Regarding the acreage devoted to other vegetables, such as cabbage, romanesco, kale, etc., the company's sales representative, Juan Manuel Ruiz, said that "we are talking about products that are a little more specialized and that remain in the hands of a few companies. Although their total volumes may have been shaped by the global circumstances, these are not products that are generally planted freely and this is always highly regulated and programmed in advance."
Although prices are higher than last season, it is not always possible to cover the costs. "There continues to be great volatility in the prices of inputs like energy or fertilizers, which are skyrocketing. Besides, the high temperatures recorded in September, October and much of November have led to problems with the product quality and consistency and to a significant reduction in the yields per hectare, which is going to have a very negative impact on the production results."
"However, we are working hand in hand with large-scale distributors to seek some balance that will allow all the links in the chain to survive, given the adverse circumstances that we have had to go through. There is still work to be done, but we expect to have significant difficulties in December when it comes to the volumes available, which we fear will be limited, as well as the prices that will be needed to compensate for the bad start to the season for producers," said Juan Manuel Ruiz.
The arrival of cold weather, together with the end of local productions, will give a boost to the demand. "We are talking about basic products that will reach their peak in terms of of sales a few days before Christmas. However, inflation and the economic crisis will be negative factors to be taken into account," he said.
"Without a doubt, the escalation of costs that we have been experiencing for some months now, as well as the difficulties to remain competitive in such a scenario, are some of the main challenges we are facing. Producers cannot survive in these circumstances. If the situation doesn't change, we are likely to see significant supply tensions in the near future. Nor should we forget other challenges and problems ahead, such as the increasingly lower water supply, or the lack of laborers in the sector, which will undoubtedly make our work even more complicated in the future."
"It is clear that producers-exporters and distributors have to sit down and negotiate very openly to ensure that we can all survive, without forgetting to think about the consumers, as well," said Juan Manuel Ruiz.