“Selling is not the problem; the price is”

Nature Choice adds 20 ha of ecological cropland in its second year with this new line

Stability has set the tone for Nature Choice until recently. The company from Almeria, mainly specialising in cucumbers and peppers, took a step further in 2018 with the creation of a new business line of ecological produce. A movement motivated by its clients’ demands. “There is an important rise in demand by Nordic countries, mainly in Danish and Swedish supermarkets, but also in Germany,” the manager Antonio Romero explains.

During the current campaign, its second one with bio produce, they have added 20 hectares of ecological production and they predict marketing 2.5 million kgs of California peppers, 2 million kgs of cucumbers and another 600,000 kg of Sweet Palermo, baby tomatoes and vine tomatoes. Figures that are a long way from the volumes they produce in conventional production, with 300 ha and around 40 million kgs.

They are also evolving with regard to packaging, a highly dynamic sector. “We are studying new alternatives. There is great concern about eliminating plastics.” Cardboard trays and netting buckets using less plastic are some of the packaging ideas that are being incorporated. And they are also studying options with regard to the increase in demand of bare cucumbers, since, when the ‘second skin’ is removed, the produce loses post-harvest shelf life.

Fair-price?

Nature Choice’s strategy involves stability in conventional and growth in bio in terms of the demand. “We are trying to get the volume right for farmers to receive a return, opting for specialities and specific programmes.” This is an essential topic, since the balance between supply-demand-prices has been weakened due to the entry of large mixed companies to the sector. “Specialised companies have been affected most, but selling is not the problem, it is the price you receive.”

In view of the impossibility of passing on the increase from the minimum wage to the sale price, along with other production costs, the topic has become highly complex. Particularly when “there are fewer and fewer markets. Russia caused a great deal of damage and Brexit is going to make things even more difficult,” and the competition from third countries such as Morocco and Turkey is on the rise.

The Agriculture Department of the Andalusian regional government, along with the companies from the sector, is attempting to find solutions, but the truth is that “10 years ago we still had a small profit margin; that has now disappeared.”

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