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Kaki season to last longer

The kaki season was slow to start this year. Supply was low when the season started, and due to a lack of rain, sizes are smaller as well. By now, the market has started recovering again, and in the first week of November, there was even a small oversupply. Lisan van Koppen from the 4Fruit Company talks about the flighty start to the season.

“In September, the Spaniards said the market would grow by 29.7 per cent because new plantations would come into production,” said Van Koppen. “By now, they have had to adjust that percentage downwards to a growth of 25 per cent.” That adjustment follows the difficult start to the season during which supply fell back compared with last year’s volumes. “The market is now erupting,” Van Koppen explained during the first week of November. “We have too much supply.”

Lisan van Koppen

New markets
The increase of the kaki area continues. Cultivators jostle one another for the scarce places available at cooperatives. Last year, one cooperative opened up registration for a short period of time, and applications poured in. Spanish cooperative Anecoop was one of the first to start, with two hectares of kaki cultivation in the mid-nineties. That adventure ended in a growing market. In 2000, total Spanish production was still at 12 to 14 million kilograms. Of that, a large share was meant for the domestic market. The fruit had its breakthrough in 2003. This year, a production of 240 million kilograms is expected, and that figure is still growing. The predictions mention this figure will have reached 640,000 tonnes in 2020.

Of total Spanish production — 240 million kilograms — about 40 million kilogram will remain on the domestic market. About 80 per cent of the kaki production is meant for export. Of the export volume, the lion’s share, 85 per cent, will remain within the borders of the EU. The most important markets are Germany, France and Italy. Until 2014, Russia was also a large buyer of Spanish kaki fruits, but since the boycott, exporters have had to make do without that market. Because of the boycott, a new destination had to be found for 18 per cent of production. With the help of the government, new markets were found in countries including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, China and Korea.

Millions for promotional action
Anecoop is one of the leaders on the kaki market. The company has a market share of about 33 per cent in production. “That market is growing very sharply. More and more people are getting to know kaki,” Van Koppen explains. Yet production is growing slightly faster than demand. That is why the Spanish sector is trying to think of promotional actions, and why they are trying to find larger promotional budgets. “During the past 17 years, 18 million euros have already been spent on promotions.” Cultivators contributed about 70 per cent to this budget.

“Kaki is still a fairly unknown fruit in the Netherlands. Although kakis are seen increasingly often in supermarkets, the catering industry does hardly anything at all with them yet.” It is positive that Dutch supermarkets are more interested in unfamiliar, exotic products. “We see that supermarkets have carefully started with only a few pallets, but volumes are now increasing. Consumers really have to get to know kakis.”

Season extension
Packaged kakis benefit from the smaller sizes seen this year. On the other hand, it is less positive for loose kakis, which tend to be larger. “This year, we have a punnet with three pieces of fruit and a punnet with two in the Bouquet line,” says Van Koppen. She is personally very fond of the punnets containing six kakis. 

By investing in kaki research, the Spanish sector is trying to have more grip on the product. By far the largest supply of kakis is from the Rojo Brillante variety nowadays. “That is the only strain that can be eaten before it is ripe. Sharon, for example, always has to be ripened.” Additionally, time and money is also being devoted to an extension of the season. Normally, the season lasts for four months, and peaks in weeks 44 to 46. “Anecoop is now trying to extend the season to five months, and they say they are already quite successful.” That would mean Spanish supply could last until January and February, which is something non-Anecoop cultivators have misgivings about. However, Van Koppen thinks they have good chances: “Anecoop has been working with kaki for such a long time already. They are miles ahead regarding technological developments.”

For more information:
4Fruit Company
Lisan van Koppen