Photo by Europa Press
The frosts of last week caused damage to the stone fruit orchards of Lleida (Cataluña) that are in advanced stages of flowering, such as apricots, plums and the earliest nectarines. The areas most affected by the frost are those closest to the River Segre, such as Seròs, Massalcoreig, Torres de Segre, Alcarràs, Torrelameu, Corbins and Benavent de Segrià, areas in which temperatures have dropped to -5º Celsius, following a period of higher than average temperatures for this time of year, according to a Unió de Pagesos press release. La Unió has called on Cataluña’s Ministry of Agriculture to conduct a careful assessment of the frost damage, which could reach as high as 80-100% in apricot production areas, according to Afrucat estimates.
Although Trecoop is capable of producing 30 million kg of fruit, this campaign the supplies will fall by about 20% to 25 million kilos due to the low winter temperatures that have noticeably reduced the different varieties of fruit.
Thus, the co-operative from Lérida is expecting production of 15 million kg of pear varieties and about 10 million kg of stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, Saturn peaches and flat nectarines).
As regards pears, Trecoop produces 6 million kg of the Williams variety, which is produced from July to November. This variety has been highly prized when fresh since the EU uncoupled aid to industry related to it. Brazil is a very important market for this item.
The Limonera pear, which is one of the main varieties offered by the Catalan company, arrives at the start of July with another 3 million kg.
Conference pears account for another 3 million kg of production and have given Trecoop worldwide fame as one of the true specialists in this variety.
“Our quality, elasticity and capacity for adaptation to the different protocols and needs of each client have given us a very good image. Our Alosa and Trecoop brands are known on the international markets,” said Trecoop general director Ignasi Gonzalez.
He highlighted the continued campaign presence in the markets of the Baltic republics, Columbia and islands such as Martinique and Reunion.
Despite Trecoop’s preparation and readiness for export, Gonzalez said that “working with the Americas must economically compensate the production work in the field, processing and logistics involved, since we are well established in the local and European markets with 70% of our sales.”
With a track record of over 15 years, Dasben is a consortium of major producers located in the Lleida area and, for the past 4 years, also in Murcia, supplying its customers with stone fruit from start to finish of the campaign.
The firm also grows apples and pears, supplying produce to customers all year round.
“For us the most important varieties are stone fruits. Nectarines come first in the range, followed by flat peaches, which are increasingly popular year upon year,” said commercial manager Josep María Griñó.
With an annual growth rate of 10%, stone fruit is in a period of expansion.
Griñó said diversifying this fruit towards the organic segment is highly promising, as it is bound to keep growing.
Dasben is continually engaged in varietal reconversion, “which, in addition to the privileged climate, is what has earned us our fortunate position.”
The main export destinations for stone fruit are northern European countries.
“We are looking into diversifying markets towards North America or Asia, but we want to be sure that we have the technological capacity to reach them. Packaging companies visit us each year, offering new products to help withstand longer transit periods, and we are continually doing trials,” Griñó said.
Frutaito brings together the efforts of 25 stone fruit farming families from the town of Aitona (Lleida). Saturn peaches, nectarines and peaches are some of their main reference items. This year, apricots are to be added to the range.
“We’re seeing sustained growth. Whereas 8 years ago we produced 8 million kilos, this year we plan to reach 12 million,” said Frutaito CEO Xavier Blanco, who also announced the launch in 2016 of a new warehouse for handling and storage of this significant increase in volume.
Many international markets take up the excellent supply from Frutaito, whose fruits are exported under the auspices of trading company Ruser Sport, S.L. in Germany, Italy, Poland, the UK, France and the UAE.
Now that the Chinese market is opening up for Spain, Catalan fruit producers are also setting their sights on the Asian giant. Frutaito already has all the necessary protocols to start exporting to China, Blanco said. “We are in good conditions to cross the Chinese border with our fruit, but let’s see what happens on the logistics side.”
“Although the journey only takes one day by air, this route is still very expensive. By sea might be more economical, but it’s a long voyage that can last around 30 days,” he said.
The challenge facing Frutaito, along with other Spanish exporters, is how to make exporting to China feasible with the technology currently available and ensure that the varieties they have can properly withstand this long journey.
A delegation from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian, including the head of its Department of Agriculture, Jiang Shaofeng, visited Fruits de Ponent last week.
They toured the trading cooperative’s facilities in Lleida, as well as learning about the company’s fruit production, packaging and marketing. Fruits de Ponent said the visitors showed interest in exporting its fruit to China.
Plan to increase Catalan trade with China
The visit was organised by Prodeca, which promotes the Catalan agri-food industry, and was one of a series of activities it hosted for the delegation over July 1-3. As part of its China Plan, Prodeca aims to increase Catalonia’s trade with Asia in food and other agricultural products.
During its visit, the Chinese delegation signed a memorandum of understanding with Catalan government representatives designed to foster cooperation and mutual assistance between them in the agri-food industry area, and closer institutional collaboration.
Fruits de Ponent (source of photos)