Intra-EU trade in peaches and nectarines measured 1.3 million tons in 2017. Every year, Spain’s dominant position becomes ever more secure as Europe’s main producer of the stone fruits, and 2017 was no different. Spanish exports to other EU countries have risen steadily over the past decade, from below 500,000 tons in 2007 to almost 900,000 tons in 2017. Meanwhile, Spain’s biggest rival, Italy, has seen its fortunes go in the opposite direction. In 2007, Italian exports of peach and nectarine to the EU stood at around 330,000 tons, but by 2017 that figure had dropped to around 200,000 tons. Elsewhere, since 2013, Greece has seen a steady increase in its EU exports, reaching approximately 120,000 tons in 2017. Europe’s other main producers of stone fruit, the Netherlands and France, have recorded relatively low exports to the EU over the past decade, never exceeding 50,000 tons. The EU’s largest importers of peaches and nectarines are Germany, France, Poland and Italy.
Spain has widened the gap with other leading European peach producers in all respects. Spanish production has increased acreage while maintaining productivity. It also has relatively lower labour costs than its competitors, making its exports cheaper. Spain has also invested in new varieties to offer consumers the broadest range, from low to premium level.
Spanish peaches and nectarines are ubiquitous on supermarket shelves across Europe. The flat peach is an example of Spanish R & D success, which is set to be exported to China. Despite limited water resources and salinity problems, Spanish production has adapted and succeeded in supplying massive volumes to the various markets.
Although Spanish production is larger overall, Italy remains Europe’s largest producer for the fresh market (1.2 million tons in 2016). However, most of its production is not premium level. Around 80% of Italian production is for the domestic market. Italians are the continent’s largest peach-nectarine consumers, with 17.1 kg/inhabitant consumed in 2016. Italian exports are on the decline, while imports continue to rise (+ 82% since 2012).
France keeps third position despite a decline in production and surfaces area as well as a deterioration in productivity. In 2016, production decreased by 5%, and surfaces by 4%. In spite of this, the French yield (22.03 tos/ha) is the best in Europe. Although high labour costs appear to have negatively affected competitiveness, the sector has adapted by offering mid-to-high-end products and new varieties in order to diversify its offer. It also specialises in organic production (6.4% of total production in 2016, while its neighbours don’t exceed 3.5%.
Europe’s peach and nectarine output is estimated at 3,670,000 tons for 2018, constituting a fall of 8% from the previous year. The only country with a positive trend was Greece, (+20%). Spanish production fell 11% to just over 1.5 million tons, with the most affected regions being the mid/late areas of Catalonia and Aragon. In these areas peach production is expected to be 15% lower and nectarine -18%. The earliest regions are also affected, but less so. In Murcia, Extremadura and Andalusia, the decline is 7% for peaches and 13% for nectarines.
Estimates published by CSO Italy show a drop of 16% compared to 2017 with the south of the country expecting a fall of over 20%, while output in the north is predicted to be 13% lower. French production is expected to be 10% lower than in 2017 at around 200,000 tons.
The Association of Fruit Exporters of Chile AG (ASOEX) has announced that the country’s exports of nectarines and peaches in the 2017-2018 campaign rose 11.4% from the previous year, reaching a total of 98,200 tons. Nectarines accounted for 66,940 tons, which is 8% more than last season. Peaches contributed 31,260 tons – up 20% from last season.
Chile’s peach exports are mainly destined for North America (60%) followed by Latin America (35%). The picture is a little different for nectarines, with North America remaining the first destination (34%), followed closely by the Far East (31%), where shipments increased by 51% compared to last season. This boost in exports to the Far East no doubt relates to Chilean fruit gaining access to the Chinese market in February 2017.
Chile’s top-five exporters of nectarines and peaches accounted for 46% of the total shipment volumes. They were Gesex S.A. (1,780,600 boxes), followed by Verfrut S.A (1,172,932 boxes), Greenvic (862,963 boxes), Geofrut (817,392 boxes) and Lo Garcés (617,852 boxes).