Fruit Today talked to Pepe Escoms, head of stone fruit at Anecoop, who considers that the Spanish grubbing out is insufficient and it is necessary to rearrange the offer following an analysis of the European calendar
In your opinion, is the grubbing out plan carried out in some regions sufficient?
Absolutely not. The grubbing out carried out will mean a lower volume of produce, but this is not the solution. The stone fruit problem affects all the European producing regions and, therefore, a global solution must be found. The grubbing out must be carried out in terms of the varieties and the calendar to balance out the offer; the production area isn’t important. If, for example, Spain grubs out trees, but Italy doesn’t, the problem will continue the moment that the Italian production reaches the markets. There must be a European coordination for the grubbing out, as we are not alone on the market.
Related to the grubbing out and the overlapping that sometimes occurs in the production areas, do you think that cost reduction are another of the challenges that must be faced?
Yes, of course. It is all interconnected. When the fruit is not stored in cold rooms, costs are reduced and better advantage is taken of the fruit.
Where is the problem in the lack of stone fruit consumption and its replacement by other seasonal fruit?
The flavour is the most important point. Here, the sector in general could do it better, although it is true that we are in the process of redirecting this aspect. I would dare to say that today flavour is a characteristic that has priority over other qualities, including proximity. Success lies in the repetition of the purchase action and this only happens if the fruit has a good flavour. I think that for many years the breeders have paid more attention to other aspects and, from this point of view, this has been an important mistake and the market has paid dearly for it. We have realized this and the technicians from Anecoop’s development department are currently working very hard to obtain fruit varieties with good flavours.
Anecoop has grown, as has Spanish production in recent years, with the exception of the last campaign, where all our productions dropped. However, although we have decreased in kilos, we have increased in invoicing. In general, we can affirm that the category’s evolution is positive. Our exports reach 50,000 tonnes and our partner cooperatives’ production is between 135,000 and 140,000 tonnes, to which the production by collaborators must be added.
At Anecoop, are the market preferences perceived regarding the many stone fruit varieties on the supermarket shelves? Red or white flesh?
A priori, customers ask for round, smooth fruit, with very good colour and that is crunchy, hardy enough to last on the supermarket shelves, but above all they demand flavour.
Then there are taste preferences according to the destinations, but flavour is always the most important point. There are customers who differentiate the colour of the flesh in peaches and nectarines. Others, however, accept white flesh for the high range. And the opposite is also true, where white-fleshed fruit is prepared for small-sized fruit or specific preparations.
Furthermore, I believe that, at times, in very large supermarkets, where up to 12 preparations of 5 different stone fruit products can be found, consumers can become overwhelmed.
Which new destinations is Anecoop looking at for stone fruit? Could China take the pressure off the great offer on the European market?
Anecoop’s natural destination has always been the European market, where almost 80% of Spanish exports go. We all know what the closing of the Russian border meant and the mayhem caused by the sector’s search for new markets, but the truth is that stone fruit is delicate and Europe is the market that suits us best and this is where we are trying to become stronger, destination by destination, with different sizes or preparations.
China has not really taken the pressure of European production because the exported volumes are very small and the export protocol is very tough and it should be changed.