A campaign ending on a happy note for PGI producers of Poma de Girona should not mean the problems that have become almost endemic get put aside
“The profitability of the farms ought to be guaranteed because a farmer makes significant investments in varieties, machinery, production systems, etc. If the campaign doesn’t go well, they get up to their necks in debt. This crisis has shown us the essential role of farming in society.” This is the opinion of the president of the PGI Poma de Girona, Llorenç Frigola, who is also a farmer-businessman.
“The important challenge for small farms is to be economically sustainable in order to not end up in the hands of large capital groups.”
Frigola upholds that “the future feasibility of family-run farms involves, now more than ever before, collaboration plans or alliances in the production area itself, and between production and distribution, because we all need each other. An example of this would be if the distribution were to opt more for local produce, a matter that has become essential now. The pandemic has managed to spotlight this matter.”
The new campaign is starting off with very limited, or virtually no stocks in the cold rooms. There are few years in living memory that have ended so well, and so early. “This is the positive part of Covid-19; people have become aware that they must eat more fruit and vegetables,” the executive adds.
Everything points towards the fact that the start of the campaign could be quite flexible as the production prospects are lower throughout Catalonia (-16%) and the produce demand can already be appreciated.
The quality forecasts also seem to be favourable because in July there haven’t been any intense heat waves, as has happened in other years. The nights have been fresh and the vegetative cycle of the plant has worked very well. “I think that we will have excellent quality, with a good colour that is already being seen in the ribbed varieties, as well as a good size of the fruit.”
But not everything has been a bed of roses as the drop in volumes caused by three floods (November, January and April, in the middle of the flowering period for the trees) has caused spotting problems and fungal diseases in some fields that were flooded. “This means that for producers who have had real problems, even if prices go up, if the production goes down, it will not make a difference.”
Local produce, on the front line
The health crisis has made us reconsider many concepts and one of these is the importance of maintaining a national agrifood sector, which is close to consumers. The new economic situation makes it very clear that social sustainability involves buying national produce to generate jobs here and pay taxes that are returned to society. “It is the consumer’s responsibility and that of the chains themselves, to acquire produce that is as local as possible, because there will always be fruit available that is prepared a long way away, with cheaper labour costs.”
“For the first time, we have reached this long-awaited pivotal moment, when imported produce is losing points over local produce, to which is added the fact that at present, imported apples are expensive and sea shipping is also not easy.”
A step forward: the Green Deal
Catalan producers are very proactive businessmen and they know that the new challenge for their farming involves meeting the requirements of the European Green Deal. To do this, they are already taking into account aspects such as a reduction in plant protection products, herbicides, inputs and new, more sustainable plantation systems. “Apple trees that are not intensively cultivated are disappearing because the Bieje and flat wall system allows the entry of more light and ventilation and of course, a greater use of technology. “What is clear is that environmental sustainability is not possible without first having an economic and social sustainability.”