The campaign for open ground vegetables such as leeks, carrots, kohlrabi and cabbage is now starting in southern Spain, limited by factors such as water scarcity, which has led to a reduction in the estimated volumes for this campaign, and difficulties in finding sufficient labor.
For more than 20 years, Betagrande has been devoted to the production and marketing of sorted and washed vegetables, selling 70% of them in the domestic market and exporting also to Central European countries. The company mainly produces leeks, carrots, kohlrabi, cabbages and onions, as well as pak choi and pumpkin. Out of around 450 hectares in production in the municipality of Hinojos, in Huelva, in the vicinity of the Doñana National Park, 100 of them are devoted to the cultivation of leeks.
“We are starting with the leek season to supply the domestic market, as well as with kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage and endives for export,” said Joaquín Campos, manager of the Betagrande company. “We are dealing with an alarming situation of drought in Andalusia, which has directly affected various crops. This year's vegetable production will be lower and this is already being reflected in higher prices,” he said.
“We are currently also working in our leafless carrot campaign, since our production of carrots in bunches has been reduced due to the high demand for labor required and the difficulties in finding it. And in Huelva, there are many products right now that require many pickers, such as berries, citrus fruits, olives...", said the producer. “The price the product reaches does not make up for the cost of bringing pickers from other areas.”
Everything Betagrande produces is used for previously agreed programs. “We cannot venture to look for clients for our production; it is a kind of lottery that in many cases can be harmful. Although we export around 30% of our production to central and northern European countries during the off-season, we have been expanding our programs in Spain in recent years, as this is an increasingly interesting market for us,” he says.
Joaquín Campos is also at the helm of the company Procesados Vegetales del Sur and its commercial brand Soleir - Transformados Agrícolas. This firm was founded in 2020 with the aim of making use of Betagrande's second class products, which are processed into fresh cut products and delivered as raw materials for the horeca channel and other ready-to-eat food or sauce manufacturers.
The factory is located in Dos Hermanas, Seville, where the company processes about 250 tons per year. Onions account for most of the volume, although leeks, zucchini, pumpkins and carrots are also processed. In addition to the fresh cut range, they have a ready-to-eat product line that includes gazpacho and salmorejo (Spanish cold soups). For now, all products are intended for high-volume Spanish customers and are sold in bulk.
“Before we started manufacturing fresh cut products, a part of the production with lower aesthetic standards or superficial damage had to be undersold or used for animal feed. This led us to try coming up with ideas to create added value and diversify our business into new sales channels,” said Joaquín Campos.