Almeria’s production under glass, along with produce from Murcia, have allowed the markets to be supplied during January’s cold snap.
Rain, snow and hail have wreaked havoc on many hectares of cropland in Spain and Italy over the past month, meaning a reduction in European supply of fruit and vegetables and even a shortage in produce such as courgettes. The cold snap arrived with a bang, but Almeria managed to save the day thanks to its crops grown under glass. In Murcia, where thermometers only occasionally dropped below zero, the damage was limited. And although the drop in temperatures reduced the yield of the harvests and slowed the colouring rate of the fruit down, the province managed to continue supplying produce to the community countries. Marketers such as Femago confirmed to Fruit Today that, effectively, the production volumes from Almeria were considerably less than usual, and from Vicasol, the company’s manager, José Manuel Fernández Archilla, put this reduction at around 15%. As a result of all this, the prices shot up to levels never seen before, with courgettes or aubergines reaching figures of over € 4/kg.
Almeria. Record prices at source. Since the beginning of the campaign, prices were 20% higher than in 2015/16. Subsequently, the arrival of the cold caused an unprecedented price increase. However, there are still months to go in the campaign and a reliable balance can only be made at the end of the financial year. In addition, it is advisable not to lose sight of a reality that is more than obvious: this ‘bonanza’ is nothing more than a consequence of the well-known law of supply and demand, and the structural problems inherent to agriculture in Almeria remain. In order to determine this, you just have to look back at the evolution of prices during the last campaign. In 2015/16 the loss of profitability at source once again became a burden, with a 2.6% drop. Farmers, on average, received 0.534€/kg. Vegetables such as aubergines (-13.1%), green beans (-6.6%) and watermelons (-4.5%) came off worst, headed by courgettes (-34.5%), which came from a previous campaign where the prices went sky high.
The prices at source contrasted with other good aspects. During the past financial year, the total production of fruit and vegetables increased by 4.4% (3.3 million tonnes), the marketed value rose by +1.6% (1,782 million euros) and the surface covered by greenhouses increased again (over the past two years another 1,200 hectares have been added), as can be deduced from the ‘Analysis of the fruit and vegetable growing campaign in Almeria. 2015/2016 Campaign’, prepared by Cajamar and presented in December in Almeria. But if there is one figure that stands out above the rest this must be the export figure, which with 2.4 million tonnes, grew by 12% until it took over 75% of the total volume of fruit and vegetables from the province. Or more simply put: three quarters of everything produced in the greenhouses were allocated to export, with a marketed value of 2,194.8 million euros (+9.7% with respect to 2014/15).
No changes in the destinations. Due to its proximity, Europe is the natural market and it takes up 98.5% of the total exported produce. Additionally, the main clients of the ‘Made in Almería’ (Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Poland) continued to increase their purchases, concentrating 82%. The only negative point was the continuation of the Russian veto, which caused a concentration of produce in Europe, which already had surplus due to the mild weather (not only in Almeria, but also in other rival countries such as Holland, the United Kingdom, Morocco… which lengthened their harvests). Therefore, this culmination of factors caused the “collapse” of the market and the drop in prices, the executive from Vicasol, Fernández Archilla explains.
Eduardo Baamonde, chairman of Cajamar, stated that it is essential to “move on and not to fall asleep”. This is why it is necessary to continue backing differentiation through specialities and generating greater added value in the final phases of the marketing, as well as promoting strategic alliances. Other aspects on the list of priorities are the improvement in transport infrastructures and the resolution of the water problem (as scarce as it is expensive), through the search for a State Treaty and even greater efficiency in water management.
Progress is being made, little by little, in all these challenges. In specialities, last year 12% of tomatoes and 6% of peppers from Almeria already corresponded to this category and both added more value than aubergines, melons and green beans).
Ecological surface area. The surface area farmed using biological control techniques has stabilised at around 26,000 hectares since the last campaign. This represents around 60% of the farmed surface area in the province. The use of beneficial organisms continues to grow in peppers, a crop where the total share in this category is around 97%. For tomatoes this figure is over 93%, in spite having suffered from a slight decline. Cucumbers, melons and watermelons have a share that is over 50%.
The decline in aubergines and green beans, of 6.9% and 3.5% respectively, is also worth mentioning.