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Spain: Murcia’s horticultural exports break records

The regional horticultural sector attended Fruit Attraction, which is taking place this week in Madrid. The timing is perfect, not only because exports are going great, as they have increased by 50% since 2009, but also because of the expectations of further improving these figures by breaking strongly into the huge Chinese market, which has over 1,300 million consumers.

The first day of the Fruit Attraction Fair, the sector’s most important fair in Spain, was marked by the forthcoming signing of a protocol between the Spanish and Chinese governments so that Spain can export stonefruit and grapes to China. Representatives of the Association of Producers and Exporters of fruits and other agricultural products from the region (Apoexpa) met together with the Secretary of State for Trade, Jaime García-Legaz, and with a delegation of over one hundred importers and distributors in the region of Guangzhou, China, that are interested in Spanish stonefruit. "We hope that the signing of the protocol has no delays so we can be exporting in March 2016. It is a great opportunity for peaches, grapes or flat peaches," said Joaquín Gómez, president of Apoexpa, after the meeting.

Sales to China can further increase Murcian horticulture exports, which in 2014 reached a value of 2,337 million Euro, a record figure that represents a 50% increase in five years. So far in 2015, this growing trend continues, as exports amount to 1.843 billion Euro, 200 million above the average of the last two years in the same period.

"In some products the increase was higher. Seedless grape exports, for example, have gone from 90,000 tons to 130,000 tons in just one year," stated Joaquin Gomez. In total, the regional fruit and vegetable production amounts to nearly 3.3 million tons, 50% of which are vegetables, 25% citrus, and the remaining 25% are other fruits. The president of the Community, Pedro Antonio Sánchez, said that Murcia led exports, ahead of Almeria, Valencia, Castellón and Huelva. Specifically, according to the Community, regional production accounts for 28% of total Spanish exports.

Seven out of ten fruits and vegetables grown in the region are sold to other countries. Exports have become the outlet for the sector in crisis, as the fall in domestic demand has been more than offset by sales abroad.

Competitiveness plan
Murcia exports its products to 88 countries, but that number could be bigger in the future. The Community "is working with the fruit and vegetable sector in developing a plan to improve business competitiveness and expand the number of countries to which the region exports, such as the United States, Brazil, Qatar, Kuwait and Algeria," stated the regional government. Currently the region allocates 96% of its sales to Europe, especially to the UK, Germany and France. In addition, President, Pedro Antonio Sanchez, announced more than 27 million Euro in aid for 600 young farmers. The call will be published in November, he added.

Proexport is also present in the Fruit Attraction. The president of Proexport, Juan Marin, reminded Minister Isabel García Tejerina about the economic importance of fruit and vegetable production. Proexport partners have an export offer of over one million tons of different products, such as broccoli, lettuce, artichokes, or peppers, among others. Today, the speaker of Proexport hosts the fifth edition of the Internet Star awards, which recognize the best actions of online marketing. The cooperatives grouped in Fecoam are also at Fruit Attraction. Their president, Santiago Martinez, considers this appointment as an excellent opportunity to achieve new business opportunities and agreements. In total, 70 exhibitors represent the region in 2,000 square meters of the fairground in Madrid.

Organic farming
Organic farming has become increasingly more important, and that has been noticeable in Fruit Attraction. According to the regional government, 17% of the regional agricultural area is already devoted to organic farming, placing the region ahead of Spain. In the last call for grants, 1,274 farmers requested aid to cultivate organic, so the number of hectares could reach 80,367 this year.

Murcia has 2,550 operators and 200 enterprises engaged in the production and packaging of organic products, which makes it the fourth community with the most number of industries of organic farming, behind Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. The Region ranks second in ecological fresh vegetables production. Murcia’s main organic products are almonds, followed by grapes, cereals, olives, fruits and vegetables.

According to the regional government, the new challenges of the sector are the commercial opening of the European Union to third countries, the integration of production structures of a wider dimension, improving farm competitiveness through research, development, innovation and the diversification of markets.


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