The fruit sector in Lerida is finally experiencing a better campaign than during the two previous ones. Prices were maintained, even during the most critical weeks. However, there is expectation about the overall results at the end of the summer.
Fruit Today went over the characteristics of this campaign with the manager of Afrucat, Manel Simón.
What are the most defining features of this campaign?
We are in a completely different situation to the two previous campaigns. In the first place, there is an important reduction in the harvest, although this is not a sine qua non for a favourable result. During other seasons we have had episodes where hailstorms have destroyed a large part of the fields and this has not meant an increase in price.
Furthermore, there has been no overlapping of productions from different regions. And additionally, the summer temperatures have been right.
For the first time, the exceptional measures for the Russian veto have been authorised by Brussels from the 1st of July, as obviously the dates when they came into force in previous years were incongruent with what the sector required.
The sum of these factors has caused a flowing campaign, where supply and demand are compensated and there have even been moments when the supply was just right to attend to the demand. And in addition to this, there are no stocks in the storage rooms. All the produce that enters the storage rooms, leaves them again within 24-48 hours.
Is this the general trend in Europe?
Yes, it is. In France, and in Italy or in Greece, the situation is similar. The market is balanced and it is the demand that is pulling. A result of all this is that the prices are remaining stable. We are obviously above costs.
Does this mean that, finally, this will be an acceptable campaign?
Well, all of this will depend on whether the farmer or agricultural businessman has a good yield per hectare, since the prices are reasonable. We are above the price level of two years ago, but not as high as we would like because, obviously, in a situation where the production is lower and all the produce has a market, the price could improve. But it is difficult.
The important point is that we are holding up, since our history indicates that the drop in prices usually starts once the peak of the Big Top had passed, from the middle of July onwards. And the recovery was difficult and, if it occurred, it happened at the end of August, when the harvest started to fall off.
So, what role do you think the exceptional measures have played? Do you think they have been insufficient in volumes since the campaign has limited quality?
The measures have both a real and a psychological effect. The quota has not yet been exhausted and it has been divided up between July and August. Obviously, it represents a third of the volume assigned last year, but on the other hand, the measures came into effect earlier. Personally I think that if we had needed to use a higher quota in July, we could have requested it from the ministry, but I do not think that the situation has been as urgent.
We will never really know to what extent the different factors have influenced to make this campaign better. But, personally, I believe that the charity withdrawals have meant an important boost.
Moving on to other issues, I would like to emphasise that the price review, within the ordinary measures of the OPFH’s (fruit and vegetable producer organisations) Operational Programmes, which we have demanded for so long from our organisation, have been well accepted by the sector, where a 40% increase has occurred for withdrawal prices for peaches and nectarines. Finally, the Commission has ruled in our favour and it has been shown that our requests were not in vain, but rather they were necessary.
The defining issue at the moment seems to be not just maintaining the prices, but rather having the chance to raise them. What would have to happen for this to occur?
The reality of our produce, which is a commodity, is that there is always an operator who can sell it at a lower price. It is difficult to mark the price in a situation like this.
The ideal situation would be a true shortage of produce. And for this to happen, the sector must look for new markets and free the European markets from this pressure.
The only real solution is for the supply and demand to be compensated in our favour and on this point, I think that it is important to point out that the opening up of new markets such as China or others, could play an important role in our favour.