“We are going to see a revolution in the apple world”

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The apple sector is foreseeing the entry of many new varieties on the market and it forecasts great changes over the next few years

The variety transformation of the Spanish sector is a reality that will be accentuated over the next few years. Everything around us makes us forecast that there will be greater pressure on the bi-coloured varieties, which are also expected to lengthen their campaign. Likewise, there are many others knocking at the door, such as Golden-type yellow apples, but that are more heat-resistant, along with the red, American types, with thinner skins.

The Chairman of the Afrucat Apple and Pear Committee (Catalan fruit employers’ association), Joan Serentill, believes that “a new variety innovation phase has been entered, which not involve the search for high level plantations as much, as has previously always been the case, but rather for new varieties with a better adaptation to the climate change that is being experienced by the planet and more specifically in the Mediterranean regions.”

Accordingly, it is worth emphasising that the Spanish industry has an important advantage thanks to the collaboration projects with FruitFutur, the IRTA, the New Zealand company HortResearch and the sector itself. “The true opportunity lies in keeping up-to-date with these new varieties because nobody knows the weather conditions and the land of our region better than us.”

But the evolution of the Spanish market also involves positioning the product in a premium category which, today, is taken over by the produce from Italy in the first place and, secondly, from France. “I think that the sector is working hard on this and it is investing a great deal of material and human resources in it, which will bear fruit in a few years’ time. We are positioning ourselves in a good place,” the executive explains.

The current campaign

The harvest season is leaving a good flavour in the mouths of the producers with some volumes that do not differ much from the forecasted ones, around 545,000 tonnes, in line with the volumes from a normal campaign. The quality is also satisfactory, particularly for the producers from Girona, although not so much for the Gala variety for producers from Lerida, where they are seeing few larger apples. However, the Golden apple is giving great satisfaction, as the drop in temperatures from mid-September has allowed the second harvest to have almost the same quality as the first.

“This year, Spain will have apples on supermarket shelves with a quality that is as good as any coming from other sources, because September has been fantastic weather-wise, with a suitable thermal difference between the days and the nights, which has allowed suitable size and colouring to be obtained,” Serentill explains.

Clubs on the rise

The club varieties have some good results, not only on the Iberian mainland, but also all over Europe, where their consumption continues to grow by two figures. The most significant case is that of the Pink Lady apple, where the sales forecasts on the Old Continent for the year 2030 reach 300,000 tonnes, a figure that would mean a 50% increase in just a decade. “The dream for any breeder and also for any marketer is to have a Pink Lady,” Serentill emphasises.

“It is true that the sector is experiencing a hegemonic moment for the club varieties, but we must reconsider to what point the supermarket shelves are going to bear so many varieties of one product. The fight for space occurs amongst all the categories and I think that in the end more basic apples will be opted for: a yellow, a red, a bicolour and a club apple. I am not sure to what extent we can find room for the almost 60 commercial varieties there are.”

Referring to the current situation of the European markets, the executive comments that “in the absence of knowing the real figures from Poland, a country that is making giant steps in learning about the renewal of its fruit-growing industry and that must always be taken into account in spite of the fact that their volumes are a complete mystery, the rest of productions, French and Italian, owing to the cold spring, could suffer from smaller-sized fruit than expected, although this might not be generalised.”

Spanish apples

In recent years, the sector has been carrying out important work to change a situation where European apples are eaten in larger quantities than the ones produced in Spain. Today, everything is pointing towards the fact that the sector is acting as one to reverse this situation, in a clear commitment to local sources, with environmental and social sustainability as a backdrop “However, we still have to obtain critical masses of production volumes to fund mass advertising campaigns, as our European competition does. Although, personally, I must congratulate our colleagues at the ‘PGI Poma de Girona’ because they are making important progress to ensure consumers from other regions know about the goodness of their apples.” Accordingly, he points out “the economic circumscription could help us a great deal, particularly if we go hand in hand with our colleagues, the producers from the Valle del Ebro, an area where the largest Spanish production is concentrated.”

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