The uncertainty about the field workers has always been concerning for the strawberry campaign and in the current situation with Covid-19, this concern has intensified.
While the formalities are being carried out between different administrations in order for there to be the necessary workers to work in the fields during this campaign, “there are farmers who are so worried they are losing sleep. It is the only sector where one of the most basic inputs has not been guaranteed. We depend on many factors that we have no control over, and this is even more so this year,” according to Juan Báñez, the manager of Cuna de Platero.
“The only hope involves possible Spanish or nationalised people wanting to work in the fields. Strawberries need continuous harvesting and we have already seen in years gone by how some fruit remains in the fields. It is a highly complicated situation and our goal is to continue working to be able to maintain the local economy.”
In the current campaign, the cooperative from El Moguer will keep its production stable in all categories, with the exception of bilberries, since the young plantations are increasing their volumes. In addition, a new product, the pitaya, has been added to the cooperative’s portfolio.
Cupla, the latest in bilberries
Although the cooperative is a licensee for the leading varieties in the sector, it is also developing its own research and development programme, which has resulted in the bilberry variety Cupla (an acronym of Cuna de Platero) that is starting its first year on the market with forecasts that could reach 300,000 kilos.
The next investments in technology are foreseen for this product to improve the packaging processes. As a longer term project, the warehouse area where this fruit is packaged and labelled is planned to be extended.
Commercially, export continues to take up 80% of the cooperative’s share, with the home market absorbing the remainder, with a slightly upward trend. This home market trend relies on the service factor that Cuna de Platero provides with its strawberry production in Avila, which is available from June to December and allows the annual cycle to be closed.
The economic impact of COVID will be obvious on the companies’ profit and loss accounts, owing to the safety steps implemented, both in the fields and in the warehouses. “This type of expense cannot be capitalised; we just have to accept the situation and think that, on the other hand, our expenses are also lower because we aren’t attending trade fairs and we have reduced professional events.”
Cuna de Platero was the first company in its sector to join the United Nations Global Compact to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. And within this project, the use of solar energy panels, installed last year, as well as a strong commitment in the search for more sustainable packaging solutions both stand out, “although at present and in spite of the pilot trials carried out, we have yet to find the right material, as one thing is what we want and the technical reality in the warehouse is another thing altogether,” the executive comments.