The Spanish iceberg lettuce sector continues to destroy produce in the field. The goal is to prevent further losses by cutting harvesting and processing costs. The reason for this is the ruinous prices paid by certain intermediaries, chains and European discounters.
A new survey conducted by the technical services of the Association of Fruit and Vegetable Organisations of the Region of Murcia (PROEXPORT-OPFH), expects the destruction of 23.6% of the planned production for week 50 and 14% for week 51. It appears the situation will not change while prices remain low and a minimum profitability is not ensured.
The destruction figures are relevant, although demand and consumption in the pre-Christmas period historically increase, the situation for producers and exporters is so bad that they prefer not to give in to speculators and self-regulate the volumes shipped to the markets.
Expected drop in production
In addition to the impact of speculation, the weather so far has also been unfavourable, as mild temperatures in October and November have advanced the harvest by 10 to 15 days. Just the opposite of what is expected to happen from now on, as cold winter temperatures are starting to arrive to the Spanish south east, with night time lows near or below 0 °C. The cold slows down or stops the vegetative growth of leaf vegetables, which consequently need more time to be ready for the harvest.
The sum of these factors had led the Technical Services of Proexport-OPFH to predict a gap in production by the end of the year and early January.
Proexport-OPFH reminded that such situations have already taken place in previous campaigns, resulting in great variability of prices at origin and volumes available.
The Region of Murcia is Spain's leading lettuce producer, followed by Andalusia. Specifically, Murcia and Almeria are Europe's main lettuce suppliers, especially from October to May. By variety, the most noteworthy being the Iceberg, with more than 75% of the production intended for export, followed by Romaine, buds and other specialities.