Vicente Faro, chairman of the Comité de Agricultura Ecológica de la Comunidad Valenciana (CAECV – Committee for Ecological Agriculture of the Valencian Community), talked to Fruit Today magazine on this topic, amongst others.
In the first place, could you explain the CAECV’s specific functions?
The Committee for Ecological Agriculture of the Valencian Community is the Control Authority in charge of certifying ecological agrifood products, of either vegetable or animal origin, transformed or not, obtained in the Valencian Community. Our aim involves the control, certification, representation and defence of ecological products, as well as their research and promotion.
We are now in the 2nd Valencian Ecological Transition Plan. What does this progress mean for the sector?
These plans, and we are already in the second one, mean an important boost for the sector. The 70% aid for operators to pay for the cost of the ecological certification, as well as the support incentives to improve our management and control systems, are turning our Community into a benchmark, with growth rates that are ahead of other regions by over 50% in certified operators and hectares.
What is the trend observed in the ecological development of citrus fruit?
At present, we are preparing the 2023 data, but I can advance that the most developed area is the southern part of the province of Alicante, with lemons and grapefruit. The problem we are facing is that the difference in price at source between conventional and ecological crops is getting closer every day, with a differential of only 5 or 10 cents and, however, at their destination these prices increase by up to 2 euros per kilo. In the Castellón area, mealybugs and the difficulties to fight against them in biological crops are giving us some development problems. And in the Ribera Alta and Baixa, joint fertigation that is not suitable for ecological crops has prevented greater growth.
I think that this problem of joint fertigation already has a 2nd Edition by the Regional Ministry and it allows a community fertilisation for polyculture and ecological crops.
Yes, this is true and we are trying to use this to ease these difficulties. Now the irrigation communities can, if they wish, carry out a community fertilisation that is compatible with ecological and polyculture farming.
What should improve to ensure a larger number of producers turn to the ecological production of fruit and vegetables?
One of the points has already been mentioned: fertigation or community fertilisation. Another is a greater professionalisation of the production sector and in the consumption area, public purchasing of ecological produce must be encouraged in hospitals, schools, care homes, etc.
Which do you consider to be the most important lines to be developed for ecological production in the Valencian Community?
I think that the sector must continue to grow, but it must do so in a sustained and sustainable way. That is to say, as we increase the number of operators and hectares, the market must absorb the ecological produce and domestic consumption must increase. This is the only way for ecological farming to have a future. There is still a great deal of room for improvement and evolution.
From your point of view, what value does promotion have for consumers of ecological produce?
Promotion is an essential point in our development, because if something is not talked about, it is not known. In my view, I think that we should concentrate more on actions aimed at the end consumer. We must know how to transmit that it is not only important for some fruit to be aesthetically pleasing and have a good colour, because it could be that the fruit and vegetables have all these attributes and do not have any taste. From CAECV, we are boosting promotion and consumption through campaigns such as: “Ecologízate, es bueno y está mejor” (Ecologise yourself, it is good and it is better) and “Ecologízame, es bueno y está mejor” (Ecologise me, it is good and it is better).
Do you consider it to be a contradiction that a product certified as ecological can be produced thosuands of kilometres from where it is finally consumed?
Of course. You cannot talk about a production method that meets all the production cycles and gives priority to factors such as local consumption and does not regulate the fact that a product, in spite of being certified as ecological, can come from the side of the world and be eaten here. This is a matter that must be debated in Europe.