Germany, a very important player in bio

The Germans have added another 10% of surface area, whilst companies such as Balcón de Níjar are closing the year with another drop in average prices.

The ecological campaign is ending in Almeria and the first forecasts indicate that this segment will once again close with a very similar balance to last year’s, that is to say, a new drop in average prices and slightly more production. David Caparrós, manager of Balcón de Níjar, values it as a “good” year in general, since the increase in volumes compensates for the drop in prices and the produce has come onto the market at a good rate until the 15th of May, when the Central European production started. Caparrós emphasises this last point: Central Europe continues to increase its crop area, particularly in the case of Germany, which has planted another 10% of ‘bio’ fruit and vegetables under plastic. And this is not an isolated situation; the trend is increasing, adding another major headache for the sector, which in recent years has seen the average prices drop due to greater competition from new players coming onto the market: the mixed companies.

Why should Central Europe be feared if Almeria is the leader of ecological production? The answer is simple: purely due to nationalism. “Consumers from the rest of Europe pay much more for local produce than for imported goods, and there is no way of competing, because they do this regardless of whether it has lower quality or is less flavoured fruit than ours. They simply prefer home-grown produce”. This ‘chauvinism’ is emphasised by governmental policies, which promote local produce and have converted the promotion of ‘bio’ produce into a ‘national question’. It is easy to hear claims about the carbon footprint involving the importation of foreign goods (mainly due to transport), however this is biased information, since “in order to have production in April or May, they consume more CO2 because their greenhouses need artificial light and heating”. Additionally, Spain has the highest standards in food safety. “Anyone who visits handling plants in Holland or Germany can see that we are above them. It should not be forgotten that the E.coli occurred on German soil.”

Be that as it may, what is clear is that Spanish producers are going to sell less and less ecological produce in April-May (depending on the weather conditions in the rest of Europe), and they will probably be forced to shorten the production dates. To avoid this, Caparrós is throwing out some ideas, such as producing at the destination or trying to promote internal consumption and there are some people who are opting for pre-prepared goods to give greater added value.

Balcón de Níjar has ended the year with figures that are very similar to last year’s: 5.6 million Euros in invoicing and 3,100 tonnes of produce. The sector where it has seen growth is in surface area, with between 10-15% more (the company now has 50 hectares), mainly in summer crops. “We have a little more vine, cherry and pear tomatoes, along with peas, which are being consolidated after their first year of production.”

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