For Mexican soft fruit association Aneberries, 2014 has become a crucially important year in its development as the group seeks to gain access to China
For a great many companies in the fresh produce sector, China has assumed something of the allure of a Holy Grail of export destinations, with a potential market of 1.35 billion people an enticing prospect for any producer, even excepting the huge distances often involved. This is no less the case for Mexico’s soft fruit growers, where national association Aneberries – whose members account for around 75% of total berry annual export volumes – has for some time been actively seeking entry to the Chinese market. The only problem is the lack of an export protocol for soft fruit between the Latin American nation and China, meaning that – as is the case with many other sectors – exports can only be achieved through Hong Kong, in other words, not officially. However, all that could be about to change with the visit of inspectors from China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) to Mexico’s berry production heartland in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán. During the visit, which took place between 24 February and 3 March, AQSIQ officials toured a total of nine berry production sites and three packhouses, with a particular focus on blackberries and raspberries. In a hugely heartening statement for the Mexican berry sector through Mexico’s department of agriculture (Sagarpa), AQSIQ Safety Division official Feng Chunguang said that a phytosanitary agreement for exports of both products could realistically be completed before the end of 2014. If this is achieved, Mexico also hopes to achieve access for blueberries in 2015. If all goes to plan, the expectation is that Mexican president Peña Nieto will sign an agreement to enable access for blackberries to China during a scheduled visit to the country in October, explains Aneberries president Mario Andrade.
Santa Orsola has launched the campaign in March. The leading Italian forest fruit farming co-operative hopes this season will be better than last year’s, which had a later start, with unstable volumes, a saturated market and irregular prices. The new business strategies for 2014 are to boost the international export share, encouraging penetration into China, Dubai and Eastern Europe. “Getting into these new markets will create a balance in our exportable range. Previously, most of our blueberries were destined for domestic consumption in Italy, but for 2 years now we’ve been exporting to Russia, which now takes up 10% of our supply. The key to our success in Russia is that we have created excellent logistic solutions for transporting refrigerated cargo over long distances. And we hope to repeat this positive experience in other countries”, adds Director Matteo Bertolini. In addition, as the new feature for this year, he announced they will be launching a new packaging for blueberries in 65 g format instead of the traditional 125 g punnet.
Bionest, organic strawberry production leaders in Andalusia, are giving their BioDeliss brand a new focus in the campaign for 2014. They are renewing the brand image, targeting a new market segment: the final consumer. “The BioDeliss brand has been out there for years, but it was aimed at wholesalers and retailers. The new marketing strategies we plan to develop will focus on the consumer, seeking out that naturist niche of people who go to the supermarket or local shops looking for organic products and appreciate the high value of our organic fruit”, states Thomas Cera.
Fresón de Palos has a leading share in large-scale distribution lines in Spain. Their high production volumes allow them to reach other major European markets with solid guarantees. Fresón de Palos was recently chosen as the most well-known brand requested by Spanish consumers, according to surveys carried out on 19,000 real shoppers in 2013. “It’s an acknowledgement that reaffirms our commitment to doing things well”, says Jaime Záforas. The sector in general exports more than 80%, whereas the figure for Fresón de Palos is usually less than 60% of its 72,000 tn. Countries receiving their fruit are mainly in Central Europe, such as Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Portugal, and to a lesser extent Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia, among others. Leading the way in Sustainable Strawberry Production, the company has a strict internal residue-free production protocol and Zerya® certification.
Meet all customer needs, supplying a strawberry of quality, in any format and with exquisite service. These are the main aims of the Cuna de Platero cooperative, Strawberry leading exporter to European markets, setting itself new challenges to overcome. And it is the strategy they continue to focus on, with a clear customer focus. This way, working with quality, reliability and sustainability, last season Cuna de Platero traded a total of 55.000 Tn, grown in 900 ha of plantations, with 90% in strawberries and the rest mainly in raspberries and blueberries, with a smaller portion of blackberry and peach. The firm from Moguer, to meet the demands of supply chains and the European consumer, carries out exhaustive selection of fruit from field to store, choosing only those that meet the quality and food safety standards their customers want. This measure is making them a quality benchmark. Manager Juan Báñez emphasises: “Our aim is to be able to respond to any demand from our clients from our position as specialists, supplying them with the finest quality products and excellent service, improving upon what we’ve been doing so far, if such a thing is possible.” In addition, the cooperative is carrying out other actions, furnishing customers with the formats required and renewing their range of varieties, backing longer life and tastier fruits.
Grufesa is making a clear commitment to this model of sustainability, health and minimal environmental impact. Four years ago it began a pilot project with 15 acres and now there are 440 with clean, sustainable and environmentally friendly production. Last year, over 33% of its analyses showed zero residue. “100% of our crops follow a very ambitious project called Bayer Food Chain Partnership, which requires the highest standards in using conventional pesticides and biological products to control pests and disease,” says Carlos Cumbreras, Grufesa manager. In addition to this, Grufesa is involved in a project called NNTT Abiogrin, using natural microbiological constituents present in the soil to enhance the crop’s health and get more productive plants. Grufesa is clearly committed to innovating with varieties; they are carrying out interesting research projects of their own to provide greater value for their customers. With exports to 17 countries in Europe, Grufesa’s trend is to even up the percentages of shipments to each destination and open up new ones. The prospecting in Dubai and Panama has been an interesting experience and will be taken further.
Quality, strength, stability, reliability, sustainability and environmental care are the values that have characterised the largest Berry Cooperative located in Moguer, Spain, for a quarter of a century. Last season, Cuna de Platero SCA traded a total of 55,000 tons from a 900 ha cultivated area with 90% in strawberry and the rest mainly in raspberry and blueberry, with a lower portion of blackberry and peach. Their main distribution channels are supermarket chains, although they also work with wholesalers. “Our company philosophy consists of always supplying high quality fruit with great flavour and a distinctive format. We have evolved into a specialist operation responding to multiple requests, assessing the needs of each customer in line with their specific demands for varieties and formats”, says General Manager Juan Báñez. Along with this, he confirms that the company is increasingly more oriented towards production of fruits differentiated by their concern for consumer health and environmental sustainability, ensuring the success and consolidation of Moguer Cuna de Platero SCA. They are currently implementing the ‘Zero Residues’ project, responding to the technical reality of sustainable production without pesticide residues. In this process the fruits receive no specific treatment during growth and ripening, so remain free of chemical products. “In the globalised world we live in, demand is becoming more and more specialised. So we try to respond to each demand. We make a concerted effort to achieve high quality fruits and a standard packaging that takes into account the specific needs of each market. We also take steps to ensure proper management of cooling and transport so that the fruit reaches the end customer in perfect condition”, explains Báñez. Subsequently, we have gradually included internal protocols that ensure stringent food safety management, phytosanitary checks, regulations and certified production quality, traceability, social policy, equality standards and many more factors that guarantee delivery in optimum conditions.
Vivero El Pinar, a Segovian company specialising in introducing new varieties of strawberries to the market, is now well into the development phase of three new varieties bound to appeal to farmers in southern Europe and North Africa. On one hand – available only to Surexport and SanLucar Fruit in Spain, Portugal and Morocco – we have the BG4316-Victory: “An early variety, highly productive in with very good post harvest features”, explains Manager Mario Esteban. It is already being grown commercially and “with very good results, both for farmers and the markets, where it has been catalogued from the outset as high quality fruit according to their standards”, adds Mario.
In addition, they have the BG4315-Liberty, an early mid-season variety. This cultivar is characterised by its medium size, good flavour and Brix degree, as well as its conical shape and light red colouring. “This is its first trading season, while it is also being tried out with good results from farmers in several countries”, continues Mario. The El Pinar spokesman adds that it has been very well received in supermarkets. The third variety is BG4352, still in the research phase. It is a very early variety, large sized fruit with a pleasing colour and good Brix level.
Splendor is the most well-known variety from El Pinar and the most widely planted in Spain, accounting for roughly 40% of strawberry crops. This season they have gone from 180 million plants to 200 million, 13% more than the previous campaign. The firm’s presence is also growing in countries such as Italy, Greece and Morocco.
El Pinar continues to work towards main objective: to find the variety that best suits the farmer’s conditions. MP
100% of the 440 hectares Grufesa has given over to strawberry plantations this campaign come under the Bayer Crop Science Food Chain Partnership project. The Moguer cooperative signed up to the initiative two years ago with a view to assuring the end consumer a product of unique quality that is safe, healthy and sustainable. Thanks to this monitoring system, Grufesa will meet the highest requirements for pest and disease control in crops, which means even more natural fruit from the consumer. Food Chain Partnership applies a series of directives in the plantations designed to control pests and diseases, which enables Grufesa not only to remain below the legally stipulated Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), but also to fully comply with the most stringent standards set by European large-scale distribution. To this end, technicians from Bayer Crop Science, along with Grufesa’s Technical department, have developed a crop protection programme based on the introduction of new control guidelines to help choose the right products to ensure good, healthy crops from among the several active ingredients and zero residue treatments available on the market. As Grufesa Manager Carlos Cumbreras explains, Food Chain Partnership is “one of the programmes that come closest to a totally natural production process, and so meets one of the main demands of clients at practically all destinations, benefiting all stakeholders in the chain, including the environment.” This programme is the nearest you can get to a fully biological production. As Grufesa will demonstrate during their participation at the next Fruit Logistica expo – they will be located in Hall 18, stand A- 02G – this programme is a differentiating element against competitors mainly from other points of origin.