Pascual Prats, chairman of the National Persimmon Association, champions a Chilean-style organisation model for the persimmon sector
After the Association’s General Assembly, Prats talked exclusively to Fruit Today.
You have underscored the fact that it is increasingly necessary for the sector to work together and you have asked the Regional Secretary for Agriculture for his help in starting up conversations with the DO, with the cooperatives, with all the agents… Specifically, what are the ultimate goals of these conversations?
There is a reality that we must see. In 2020, persimmon production will reach 600,000 tonnes. It will be a year when the potential of the existing plantations will reach its maximum point. When this moment arrives, we must have solutions and in order to do this we must start talking now. The conversations cannot be put off any longer, or we will all regret it.
In particular, what is under debate?
The most pressing question is that of moving forward with new export protocols. The relevant reports must be presented to the Ministry to ensure that the persimmon is the next product to enter China. China works product by product, and we know that the blueberry sector, the cherry sector and even the pomegranate sector have all already got down to work on this. We must do the impossible to be the next ones.
Why is the Chinese market so important?
For several reasons: firstly, due to its potential in terms of demand. The Chinese middle class continues to grow at a rate we cannot imagine in Europe and secondly, because in China, the persimmon is not an unknown product. In fact, it is a product that originally came from China; therefore we wouldn’t need campaigns to promote its consumption. We only need to reach this enormous market.
In any event, our goal must be to seek out more markets and I am talking about markets outside Europe. We must consider Europe as a home market, because really that is what it is. The world’s great economic growth is taking place outside Europe.
If we don’t sell outside Europe, we will have no other option than grubbing out trees to adapt the production to the demand.
What answer have you been given by the Valencian Government now that its political colours coincide with the ones in Madrid and supposedly holding talks with the Valencian Department and the Ministry should no longer involve any difficulties?
To be perfectly honest with you, Francisco Rodríguez Mulero has offered to set the day and time if the meetings take place, but we expected more of him, a real mediation and on this point he has been somewhat reluctant because he told us that the initiative must come from us. I think that politicians should be more willing to get their feet wet and look out for the general good. This is the reason they are public servants.
What other considerations should the sector make immediately or in the short term?
At the moment, during this campaign, due to the drop in production (40% in general) and the quality problems in some areas, at the Association we are launching a clear message: any persimmons that are damaged should remain in the fields and should not be brought onto the sales circuit to ensure that they do not become a burden for the good quality fruit.
There are other challenges still pending such as that of quality regulations, obtaining new plant protection records that are becoming more essential every year and obviously making trade routes with third countries, such as Peru, more flexible.