Given the considerable shortage of stone fruit in the central weeks of the summer, operators and cooperatives are in the unusual position of having to cut back on orders, meeting the most important ones and decreasing long distance requests
As we already mentioned in our previous edition, many supermarkets have had to cancel their programmes to adapt to the current circumstances and they are having to make their purchases week by week.
There have now been two years running of reductions in the harvest. Last year, the production dropped by around 35%, but this campaign the supply situation is very complicated as the decrease in volumes reaches over 40%.
This is a generalised context, not only in Spain, but throughout Europe as a whole, where there are regions in which harvests have reached minimum limits, with a decrease of 70% of the potential amount.
This year, the weeks that have traditionally been the time of greatest production of stone fruit are the setting of a pronounced produce shortage that is forcing operators to ration their sales.
However, this unusual situation could bring good consequences for the producers in terms of payment. “Nevertheless, we must wait until the very end to see whether, finally, the prices compensate and this is yet to be seen, as the reduction in volumes, however highly they are paid for, at times do not balance out the production costs,” sources from a cooperative in Lerida explain.
Another essential question involves the preparation centres’ fixed costs, as this year fewer kilos of fruit will pass along their preparation lines. “In a situation like the current one, each company’s results will depend on the volume of kilos that are received, on their insurance cover and on the prices that can be obtained,” Manel Simón, Manager of Afrucat, comments.
While the production in the earliest areas, Andalusia and Murcia, was on the markets, the shortage of produce was not noticeable, “although it was to be expected that as the season advanced towards the northern areas, the shortage would arrive.”
This situation occurs at the peak of the campaign (end of July-middle of August), a time when traditionally there was even a significant drop in prices due to the important peak in production. These prices usually bounced back from September onwards.
On this scenario, the stock of fruit in the cold rooms is nonexistent, as the produce that arrives from the fields, leaves almost immediately, on the same day or the next one.
Another of the special circumstances arising this season is the important shortage of red peaches with a correct size for making up baskets for the supermarkets. “The heavy frosts in March reduced the load on the trees, even preventing thinning to be carried out in some regions; therefore the remaining fruit is quite large. The shortage has affected all stone fruit, but small peaches are, if possible, the most sought after,” sources from Afrucat add.
Added to this situation is the decrease in productive surface area that has been seen since the Russian veto, motivated by the grubbing out plan that was put into action by the Ministry of Agriculture and that meant the grubbing out of around 1,300 ha of stone fruit.
Progress in protection
After two campaigns marked by very sudden weather conditions, the sector is very seriously considering investing in crop protection infrastructures against hail and frosts, as already used by their counterparts in Europe.
The anti-freezing systems, although they are becoming more widespread every day, do not yet cover most of the production; therefore, it seems clear that both these and an appropriate insurance cover are becoming essential tools for the sector.
Bad weather conditions are affecting everyone seriously, and suddenly. This summer, the wildfires in the west of the United States and Canada, the floods in Germany and Belgium or the high temperatures in Moscow remind us, every day, that no corner of the world can escape from the effects of climate change and, by extension, all the agricultural productions are threatened.
The sector is aware of this and therefore, administrations, research centres and private organisations have started working on different lines of research.
Accordingly, different scientific teams, along with weather and space agencies from all over the world visited the region of Pla d’Urgell, in Lerida, within the framework of a study on climate forecasting and water management in farming.
The NASA, the SAFIRE and the ESA have flown over Pla d’Urgell with aeroplanes fitted with thermal sensors and hyperspectral radars, which will estimate the evapotranspiration, the surface humidity in the soil and the photosynthesis of the crops. This information will be used for future space missions.
The mission is led by the Spanish National Centre for Meteorological Research (CNRM). The IRTA and the Servei Meteològic de Catalunya (SMC) are also taking part.
The project is called LIAISE (Land Surface Interactions with the Atmosphere over the Iberian Semi-arid Environment) and it starts from the fact that, in semi-arid regions, the water evaporates more than in other regions due to irrigation and the different crops. This circumstance could interfere in the atmosphere and alter the forming of low clouds and cause an imbalance in rainfall.