“Anyone not investing in self-consumption will be left behind”

Interview with Juan Marín, General Manager of Campo de Lorca/Cricket.
Juan Marín

The increase in costs, the never-ending Indian summer and the water shortage are marking both the present and the future of the sector. How are brassicas being affected? The General Manager of Campo de Lorca tells all.

How has the brassicas and leafy vegetables campaign started this year? In general, the sector is seeing a reduction in arable land due to the water shortage. Is this the same for your crops?

The start of the campaign was very irregular. The summer campaign had been very tough due to the high temperatures and the water shortage, with a very significant reduction in produce over the months of July, August and September. October has come to an end – the so-called ‘veroño’ (summer running into autumn), which has marked the start of a campaign with shorter cycles and an imbalance between supply and demand over the first weeks. As of November 1st, with a temperature of 30º C, these winter plants are becoming stressed and bringing their cycles forward. Without any doubt, this will generate an imbalance in the coming weeks when the temperatures drop.

At the company we are talking to our clients regarding the water situation, as irregularities are being predicted in transplants. But, as of today, the supply is guaranteed. We are maintaining our volume and surface area in a year marked by the increase in costs and a nation-wide drought. All of this is already being a serious challenge for us.

Climate change is a reality, how are you preparing for the coming years, with the expected worsening weather conditions?

Yes, climate change is a reality and we have seen it during this harsh, dry summer with tropical nights. In the winters we suffer less, as they are usually mild. Foreseeably, we will have to adapt our cycles and harvest, an area we are working on after suffering so badly this summer.

In view of this situation, we are preparing alongside important specialists in brassicas (in broccoli, cauliflower and other cabbage varieties) and in the next campaign we will start introducing improvements and working with new varieties, with specific changes looking to next summer in terms of agronomic conditions. We are looking for new farms and implementing new agronomical irrigation and fertigation systems, seeking to become even more efficient.

Within the sector, the price increase of inputs is being placed at around el +35-40%. How is this affecting the handling phase? Are you able to pass on this on in your prices?

The price depends on the products, on the production period and in terms of the yield of the productions and crops. We calculate that the increases are around 30%.

In the warehouse, this mainly affects energy consumption, as brassicas need a very significant pre-cooling and this makes the electricity bills triple. Cold storage rooms, packaging, machinery, etc; the product does not only get more expensive in the fields, as the important energy-dependence means that it also gets dearer in the warehouse.

Have you noticed that the clients are hurrying to sign contracts this year?

We haven’t noticed that clients have been hurrying to sign contracts. They are aware of the situation and of the recession that we are moving towards, as the macroeconomic data are telling us that there is a possibility of recession, and we don’t know how it could affect our clients’ purchasing power. We must be realistic and remain aware and each of us adapt as best we can. Now, instead of closing prices for the entire campaign, we are closing them for shorter periods, quarterly or in some cases, even month by month.

At the AECOC Large Distribution Congress, retraction in consumption and more attention being paid to prices by consumers were discussed. How do you think that this could affect brassicas and ecological crops?

We are concerned, as would occur with any product. We trust that consumption will be maintained, as brassicas have become a staple in the shopping basket and we believe that we will find a balance. There are added value products that could suffer more.

Regarding ecological crops, it is a segment that is being consolidated year after year. We haven’t seen any drop in volume to date in our programmes.

What new developments do you have this year?

An important investment has been made in renewable energies, installing solar panels in all our installations, as well as in farms, wells, irrigation heads…. Anyone not investing in self-consumption will obviously get left behind. Regarding investment topics, we are mainly working on new varieties and new, more sustainable formats.

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