“Lack of manpower is forcing us to become mechanised”

Cuna

The Manager of the cooperative Cuna de Platero is analysing the situation of the sector, marked, as usual, by the lack of manpower and, this year, by the soaring rise in costs

Juan Báñez indicates that “manpower is scarce all over the world and we have to go further and further afield to find it. This year, we have had to resort to Central America: Honduras and Ecuador, and the problem is not only affecting the fields, but also the preparation centres.”

The future outlook does not look very positive: the shortage will continue. “Having these nationalities is proving to be a positive experience, but every season we have to start from scratch again. For this reason, we must try to mechanise farming activities, investing in mechanised harvesting. It is difficult, but we know it is not impossible.”

In order to do this, he affirms, a search for alternatives would be needed by the entire sector, changing the growing methods so that the harvesting machines could “work with ease.” At present, the hydroponic systems seem to be the best solution for this problem.

Weather conditions that help to keep the prices up

The start of the season has always been characterised by very good quality fruit, a reasonable production and calm markets. “The dry weather in February has helped us, but water scarcity is becoming an increasingly urgent issue.”

The executive comments that in spite of the rise in costs, the high quality of the fruit has helped them to maintain a balance regarding the prices. “We want clients to participate in the repercussion of this cost so that the farmers receive the same, because the increases have been very high, in some cases up to 30%.”

In the current situation, Báñez predicts that when imbalances occur on the market, the costs will be an important limiting factor and “companies will be pushed out of the market if they haven’t obtained reasonable results.”

Regarding raspberries, the context is not as encouraging: “we are suffering, there is demand and we have no offer.” Báñez explains that in these months the shortage of raspberries is due to the fact that the consolidated varieties cannot cover the months from the end of January to the beginning of March.

The competition, particularly the Moroccan farmers, is also not able to cover this demand. “We are very aware that Morocco is gaining ground from us and we can do nothing when faced with their important volumes and cheaper labour.”

With respect to bilberries, Cuna de Platero has opted, as have many others, for research and development: “We are open to participating in any programme. Now people are investing much more in research, and it takes less time to obtain results.” This means that there is “a boom in varieties, which in the long term will be positive for the sector.”

The company’s variety Cupla has had a great repercussion, with an important increase in hectares and almost half a million kilos harvested during the last campaign.

Goal 2030

Cuna de Platero was the second company from the agrifood sector to sign the United Nations Global Compact for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on the 2030 Agenda.

Of the 17 existing goals, they are working on 3, specifically, No. 3: Good Health and Well-being, for which they are carrying out promotions and informing about the nutritional values of berries; No. 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, which in its case is related to photovoltaic panels or air curtains; and No. 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Recently, the cooperative also obtained the ‘Q-SDG’ stamp, which certifies the social and environmental commitment to the surroundings, without putting the economic factors to one side, the three pillars of this certification. Accordingly, Báñez affirms that “sustainability must be financially profitable because if it isn’t, it is artificial and will not last.”

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