The Flemish agricultural industry’s REO authority is supporting its growers attempts to meet the increasing demand for organic vegetables with a new initiative called ‘Zéro Résidu du Pesticides’. This collective was first started by the Rougeline producers in the south of France and already has around 20 agricultural cooperatives behind the label. A key difference between zero residues and organic is that the participating producers do not have to commit their entire industrial area to the project, thereby lowering the threshold to participation. The participants in ‘Zero Résidu’ adhere to a set of specifications with three basic principles: optimum use of bio-resources and techniques, complete traceability from the field to the retailer, and the commissioning of external labs and certificates. Institutions conduct analyses and audits to guarantee a limit of 0.01 mg/kg is observed. These objectives are achieved by using specific applications that are not foreign to organisms’ biology, such as selecting resistant varieties, carrying out frequent crop rotation, mechanical weed control, good soil fertility and production under protection.
Customs data for the first quarter of the year show that Spain imported 1% more fresh produce (823,000 tons) than over the same period last year. Most of the rise is attributable to larger volumes arriving from third countries (+11%) to 358,000 tons. By contrast, imports of fresh fruits and vegetables from the EU were down 5% to 468,000 tons. Third country imports made up 43.5 per cent of the January-March total, rising from a share of 39.7 per cent in 2017. This data reflect the displacement of the Spanish market to imports from third countries due to greater foreign competition from countries with schedules and crops coinciding with Spanish production.
In terms of value, imports from the EU were down 20% to €213 million, while imports from third countries climbed 12% to €487 million. Spain’s largest EU supplier was France (€74.5 million tons / -33%), while its largest non-EU suppliers were Morocco (€253 million / +11%) and Costa Rica (€38.1 million / +1%). Fruit imports totalled 357,000 tons (+0.5%), worth €465.3 million (+11%). Overall vegetable imports weighed in at 466,000 tons (+1.8%) and were worth €234.2 million (-18%).