At Royal, blueberries and raspberries are giving way to the stone fruit season. "Our biggest concern this year is the drought," says Macarena Garcia Otero Reina. "The situation on availability here in Andalusia is slightly better than in Murcia, but we still have about 20% less stone fruit available. However, the good news is that this year's fruit's eating quality is exceptionally good. Its brix level is as much as 1.5 to 2.5 higher than in other years. Consumption figures reflect that and customer demand is significantly higher."
As a vertically integrated company, Royal controls the whole chain. "We have a 1,000-hectare growing area, with nectarines and peaches being the largest products, volume-wise. We develop our own varieties and grow everything ourselves, which lets us deliver consistent quality. Eating quality is our highest priority. We continually test new varieties that can also withstand the climate change everyone's experiencing. Product availability is a hot topic with our retail clients. We've developed strong partnerships with supermarkets over the last 30 years, which has proven to be the right strategy," Macarena explains.
"Regarding sales, we focus primarily on the European market, with France, Benelux, Germany and Italy as major sales countries. The United Kingdom, too, has strong demand this year. Also, we've further developed our domestic Spanish market sales recently. And, although on a small scale, we're active in the Asian market. If you can supply the right product there, you get good prices, but people are very selective. Nevertheless, the red-fleshed nectarine we introduced - I'd call it one of the biggest innovation in the stone fruit category in recent years - is in great demand everywhere."
What are the biggest challenges? Managing the weather, answers Macarena: "In April, we had temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius here; we've never seen that here in Seville. We immediately used up the water we normally have available for June and July. So, water shortages are the biggest challenge, with no short-term solutions either. This week's rain has relieved some of the pressure, but it's not enough."
The extreme weather in Northern Italy does not affect the current stone fruit market. "That will become especially noticeable in the summer, but will mainly impact productions in Lleida. Still, due to the drought and lack of winter cold, Spanish volumes will be very limited. I don't expect a large supply of nectarines and peaches until the end of the summer."
"Tight availability is pushing prices unusually high, which should continue throughout the summer. The growing regions won't overlap, and fruit is scarce everywhere. That doesn't make it a peak year, by the way, because it remains to be seen whether the high prices will compensate for the lower productions," Macarena concludes.