At the end of the campaign, Actel will have produced another 30,000 tonnes of stone fruit. In a campaign marked by a shortage of produce and fruit affected by adverse weather conditions, the quality control of the fruit is being even stricter, if possible.
Fruit Today euromagazine interviewed José Manuel Ibáñez, Fruit Business Manager of the Catalan cooperative, to find out how the current campaign has developed.
How is the cooperative experiencing such an unusual year regarding the volumes you expect to market?
The forecasts that we had already showed these figures in May (even lower than the 2020 campaign); therefore, we have had to adapt regarding work shifts and staff. In the earlier regions, although the harvests were slightly lower than normal, they have been in line with the demand, as the weather conditions in Europe at the beginning of the campaign were not hot.
Although it is early to know the final results for the producers, some agricultural organisations are already talking about the fact that this shortage of produce is not causing better prices at source. What is your evaluation?
It must be taken into account that the most important indicator for our producers is the euros per hectare that they end up receiving through the payments. In a campaign with such an important reduction in the production, (we think there are around 20% fewer kilos than the previous campaign, which was already 30% less than in 2019), the way to compensate an entire year’s work involves prices that are in line with such a reduced offer.
I trust that from week 30 onwards, the prices are going to adapt to this important produce shortage. We should not forget that we are still in pandemic mode and the costs incurred in the preparation centres are very high.
Which volumes will you end up working with this year, and what do you think is the current situation of flat peaches?
The bad weather conditions have not only affected the production volume, but also the forming and quality of the fruit, which is obliging us to maintain high levels of quality control to meet our clients’ demands.
At Actel we expect to end up marketing over 30,000 t of stone fruit and mainly nectarines and peaches are the fruit that have been affected worst.
Flat peaches will continue being one of the main fruits demanded by the chains, and I consider that consumption has not stalled, but the relation of the prices amongst the different summer fruits is important, as consumers are once again interacting and comparing a great deal more in the shops.
What has changed, commercially-speaking, during this year and a half of pandemic?
I think that, at this time, we are getting back to normal; people are going out more; little by little, they are going back to their shopping habits and are interacting more; therefore, although some aspects such as the growth of online shopping will remain, consumers will go back to comparing and, above all, looking for: quality, healthy, local produce.
To sum up, we will continue working this summer season putting our workers’ safety first, acknowledging all their efforts in such a difficult scenario due to the pandemic, because it is thanks to them after all that we can reach our clients with high-quality fruit, keeping an outstanding level of service at all times.
What steps in terms of sustainability is the cooperative applying regarding energy, packaging, etc?
On the one hand, in the energy vector we are concentrating on energy self-consumption, using renewable energies and carrying out energy audits on the main cooperatives that use the most to establish a roadmap for the actions to be taken.
On the other hand, the reduction in waste is our top priority, with two main focus points: minimising the generation of waste and new packaging solutions for our containers.