The citrus fruit export companies are using cautious parameters owing to the tense international situation. This is the case of a company from Castellon, García Ballester
Fruit Today euromagazine talked to Jorge García Monfort, the Executive Director of the company on this and other topics.
How does an export-orientated company handle the foreign markets?
I think that all companies are trying to be cautious with third countries. In our case, Canada represents our main market and we are already handling data that shows that not just us, but the entire sector is sending smaller volumes. The freight is suffering delays lasting a minimum of a week and, at times, goods from several vessels pile up together. The supermarkets are increasing their prices and there is uncertainty about how consumers will react. This lack of safety makes us question whether we should make up large loads which, in addition to having quadrupled in price, do not have an exact arrival date guaranteed. There is some fear about the programmes because if we get the forecast wrong or the sales fail in the shops, it could affect us all. The entire selling process to third countries has become very vulnerable, but any self-respecting supermarket must have oranges, although in smaller quantities.
In Europe, the situation is more stable. When faced with all these problems, it is better to sell on our own continent.
And, additionally, there is the turmoil caused by the rise in the prices of electricity, plastics and cardboard.
The fight is very tough because in addition to competing with the produce, we are facing some costs both in the preparation centres and in the fields that have risen over a very short period of time, to prices never seen before. An attempt is being made to pass this increase on, but it is a very difficult process. And in our particular case, we consider ourselves to be more farmers than commercial operators. Through the SAT Cítrics del Ebre we work with many producers, who we consider an essential part of the chain and who we must also defend.
Garcia Ballester’s main bastion is the clementine. How is the market behaving in this segment?
In general, there is less fruit than last year. It is difficult to value the 10% lower capacity. In any case, this drop affects the different areas to a varying extent. In the north of the Valencian Community and southern Catalonia, the production falloff is sharper than in the more central regions.
The variety that we market most is Clemenule and everything indicates that the lack of produce will continue throughout the entire campaign. Some years the fruit all ripens at the same time, giving us a false feeling of plenty. This year this is not the case, therefore the fruit is reaching the markets in an ordered way and we have the chance to defend the prices, as there are no problems regarding the size. If there is less fruit on the trees, it is larger.
How do you see the near future for the sector?
We are facing a warm winter, and we must wait and see its final evolution. Specifically, I am referring to the lack of supplies and to the logistical difficulties. I think that the marine shipping problems will end up affecting land transport methods. I can see a highly unstable international situation, with some very difficult times ahead. My opinion is that the problems that globalisation has brought could cause a trend that will be characterised by consuming more local produce.
Our company, taught by the knowledge of four generations now, has gone through many ups and downs, including a war, but the current problems have no precedents and we will have to face up to them without any prior experience.