Fruit Today magazine reviews these and other vitally important questions for Andalusian citrus fruit growing with con José Rodríguez, Manager of SAT Síntesis.
How is business going this season?
The early clementine campaign in Huelva has developed with good prices in the fields and the harvest has been fast because the volumes were not large. Consequently, the prices have been high compared to other years. This element differs for Seville and Cordoba, regions that specialise more in Navelinas, where there have been many problems owing to water shortages, particularly in Cordoba.
In general, the lack of size is being translated into a shorter harvest volume, with high prices that will not make up for the lack of kilos and that will not be profitable for the farmers. The worst point is that the same will happen in the second part of the campaign because the harvest of late varieties is even smaller.
Commercially, the starting prices for the campaign seemed reasonable, but then the battle for selling cheaply and reaching the supermarket shelves began. Therefore, the margins we are currently operating with are very low for oranges and slightly less for mandarins and clementines.
The positive side is that the industry is absorbing the smaller sizes and paying reasonable prices.
What is the main challenge in this campaign?
Water availability will be the challenge for this campaign and for the future ones. We have had a very persistent drought over the past few years, but when it rains we cannot make the most of the water because we lack the correct hydraulic infrastructures. It is not acceptable for several hundred hectometres of rain to be lost due to a lack of investment.
Is the vulnerability of European economies with higher inflation rates than in Spain affecting your business?
Yes, of course. Up to the first week of December, sales have been very slow and the orders have been tight and with continuous fights about prices.
The increase in interest rates and shortage of energy have made Germany slow down its demand and the Scandinavian countries are always highly volatile regarding the source of their suppliers, and now that Egyptian production is beginning to break onto the market I am afraid that the price will make them change suppliers.
Outside Europe, large volumes have been sent to the Arab countries, but now, with the Egyptian window open, it will all change again. The trading problem with China is not only that it is subjected to some harsh restrictions due to Covid, but the slowdown in the arrival of the freight is also affecting exports: transport times have gone from 20 days to 30 and this is a long way from any commercial expectation.
At the moment, Canada is the market with the greatest stability for purchasing.
How do you see the future?
The prices of raw materials and supplies are not going to drop in the medium term and this is going to force us to implement all kinds of technological improvements, both on the crops and in the preparation centres, to increase productivity and be competitive.
The PERTES (European Strategic Projects for Economic Recovery and Transformation) brought great expectations, but today they have come to nothing. We were already carrying out many actions to save water and investing in technology and photovoltaic energy, expected them, but they have been shunted off to a siding.