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Tropical fruits as an alternative to citrus

Spain: Avocados, a potential crop for the Region of Valencia

Tropical crops have been the subject of debate at Vegetal World, specifically avocado and mango, two potentially interesting options for the Region of Valencia for their profitability compared to other crops, including citrus. The fact is that the Mediterranean climate, and specifically the frost free areas, is suitable for the introduction of these species.

This was explained by Emilio Guirado, agricultural engineer specialised in subtropical agriculture at the La Mayora experimental station (of the CSIC), who presented a technical paper on the cultivation of both tropical fruits and their implementation in the Southeast of the Peninsula. The day was organised by the General Council of Agricultural Colleges and the College of Technical Agricultural Engineers of Valencia and Castellón (COITAVC).

Currently, Valencia has small plantations of these crops. Avocados are the most widespread and can be found in very specific areas of Marina Baixa, Camp de Morvedre, Safor, Ribera Alta and Baixa Plana. The area with the most experience is Callosa d'en Sarria, where they have been working with avocados for more than twenty years, managing to increase the acreage every year by replacing citrus and even medlar. In the area of Los Valles, north of Sagunto, very good results are also obtained.

At national level, the largest plantations of both crops are located in Malaga and Granada. In total, Spain has 11,000 hectares of avocado plantations, with an average production of 50,000 tonnes, of which 500 correspond to Valencia. For its part, the cultivation of mangoes is carried out on 5,000 hectares nationwide and will reach a record harvest this year, with a total production of between 22,000 and 24,000 tonnes.

"Although the density of these crops is lower, their yield is much higher than other crops like citrus, thus more and more growers are becoming interested in planting them, but before making the decision it is very important for them to contact agencies like IVIA, or agronomy professionals; for example, an agricultural technical engineer. A decision to switch to a different crop has to be taken with caution," affirmed Emilio Guirado.

Profitability, the most attractive aspect
The profitability of these tropical crops is the most attractive aspect of their implementation. Mangoes reach a price at origin of 1 Euro per kilo, and avocados of between 1.30 and 1.50 Euro per kilo; much higher returns than those of some citrus varieties. 

The most common avocado variety in Spain, the Hass, also offers the advantage of allowing growers to keep the fruit on the tree for several months, making it possible to wait to sell them at the most profitable time, depending on demand. 

"If the fruits are in optimal condition to be harvested in January, we can leave them on the tree at least until April without losing any properties. The cold chamber is the tree itself, and this is a luxury that helps get even more out of the crop," said Guirado.

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