Berry production, especially of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, has shifted from an alternative production to an important cash crop for Spanish farmers, notes the USDA in a new GAIN report.
In the last five years, Spanish farmers have embraced berries as the best way to diversify their activity – and minimise the risks associated with strawberry monoculture – and as the most competitive compared to other soft fruits.
And they are riding on the back of increasing demand for soft fruits not just in Spain, but within and beyond the EU, the report says. According to FEPEX, the Spanish federation of associations of producers and exporters of fruits and vegetables, berry exports in the last six years show an upward trend within the EU28, but an especially significant one in relation to non-EU countries.
“This change is seen in the main Spanish region for strawberry production, Huelva in Andalusia, where strawberry farmers are opening new markets and business lines designed to achieve greater profitability to its business,” the report says.
“Farmers in Huelva, Andalusia, the main Spanish region for strawberry production, are increasing the planted area for blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.”
Strawberries and Huelva still dominate Spain’s berry sector
Despite the growth in alternative berries, strawberries remain the main soft fruit grown in Spain, with production rising from 189,741 tons in 2008 to 317,700 tons in 2015 (based on FEPEX figures).
Huelva accounts for 97% of total Spanish strawberry production. Its strategic location in south western Spain sees it influenced by the Atlantic, with exceptional climatic features allowing it to offer the first European berries each season. In recent years several U.S. berry companies have invested and installed offices in Huelva, both due to special climate conditions and the strategic point to reach Spain, EU, Africa and the Middle Eastern markets.
Decline in planted area
However, FresHuelva, the association of strawberry producers and exporters in Huelva, calculates that the planted area for strawberries in Spain shrunk 9.2% last season, while that dedicated to other berries expanded 25%. The total area for soft fruits during last campaign 2014/2015 was 9,460 ha compared to 9,500 ha the previous year.
Source: FAS Madrid with FresHuelva Data
source: “Spanish soft fruit production increases and consolidates as an alternative to strawberry”, USDA GAIN report number: SP1604, February 10/2016