The avocado campaign started with “many fronts open,” and by now it can be defined as “very tense.” This is how the General Manager at Trops, Enrique Colilles summarises the situation. There is very little fruit on the market and in production. Many of the sources have less fruit, but in the case of Spain, there is “a great deal less” than in previous years. One of the worst affected areas is around the reservoir of La Viñuela (Malaga), where production has dropped by up to 70%, mainly due to water shortages.
The different fronts (water shortage, alternate bearing, increase in input costs, etc.) have led to an up and down evolution. And the fact is that inflation is making the markets not want to keep stocks and to live on a much more day-to-day basis than ever before. “This year’s market is completely opposite to last year’s, where there was an abundance of fruit. Uncertainty is always talked about; this year, even more so.”
In the case of Trops, they calculate that they will have around 50% less production than in 2022, going from 35 million kilos to between 15 and 17 million.
On the subject of prices, the situation is also very changeable. There is a large percentage of small-sized fruit on the market. And in spite of the general shortage of offer, the prices will not be as high as might be expected in a year like this one, although Colilles estimates that they will be 30% higher compared to last year.
Inflation is having a negative effect on companies specialising in subtropical fruit, such as Trops, due to the rise in costs, which they cannot pass on in their sales. “If the price rises at the point of sale, it is due to supply and demand, pure and simple. In our case, there is less production worldwide.” At the other end of the chain, the consumers “are living on a more day-to-day basis. Everything is going up and families have less income, therefore consumption is slowing down.”
Regarding the step carried out by the central Government to abolish or reduce VAT on food products, the General Manager of Trops affirms that “it is a step that must be applauded and that should have always happened. There should not be VAT on fruit and vegetables because they are consumer staples and they should be promoted because they are healthy.” The other side of the coin is the real result that this step is having. “It has not had any effect on inflation and it has merely been a populist step.”
Hass, consolidated leadership
The predominant variety continues to be Hass, which has now been consolidated. In spite of the upturn in price of Smooth-skinned avocados (caused by the lack of production in the producing countries) and their popularisation on the Eastern European markets, Colilles affirms that in Spain the presence of this typology is decreasing and it is only seen at auctions and on local markets. “Avocados are in vogue and some people buy them on these circuits due to the price, but this is slightly more marginal.”
R&D to obtain better varieties
Trops is firmly committed to R&D, and for the past two years it has been a member of the international platform Green Motion, which carries out an avocado Development and Improvement Programme alongside the University of California Riverside (UCR) and Eurosemillas. “Agronomically-speaking, we have very important development projects. We are searching for new varieties, which will have more yield and have an easier pollination. The first conclusions will be revealed over the next three years, and, at present, we have 5 varieties under development,” Enrique Colilles explains.
The Organisation of Producers is a good example to follow. With good reason, it was the only agrifood cooperative invited to give a talk at the annual event of the CRE100DO Foundation, which took place at the end of last year.
In 2022, Trops reached an invoicing of 180 million euros and it has a very sound financial position on the markets, as may be deduced from its market share: over 40% in avocados and 55% in mangos. Additionally, it has 3,400 associate farmers, a figure that continues to grow. “Every month, between 30 and 40 new applications arrive from farmers all over the Spanish mainland wanting to become associates, reaching a figure of around 300 a year,” the General Manager details, satisfied because it is the best indicator that “the model is working well and the farmers are happy and very committed.”
At the end of the chain, the result can be seen. “We produce fruit at the desired ripeness for consumers, who recognise this and buy it.” In order to publicise this differential value, Trops has been opting for promotion on the mass media for the past four years. A step that has convinced consumers. “We are seeing it in online and store sales, with the clients, who are becoming increasingly loyal to our brand.”
An important investment in Ready-Cooked products
Amongst its next projects is the extension of its installations for Ready-cooked and Fresh-cut produce, for which the relevant licences have already been presented. This work will mean an investment of over 4 million euros. In this processing line, its star project is the avocado, but they continue working on the development of new products that will be revealed in the medium term.