The profile of an ecological consumer is that of an informed buyer who is aware of aspects related to the source and the sustainability of the produce they acquire. Such is the case that although the price of 2€/kg might be a ‘barrier’ for consumers of conventional fruit and vegetables, in the case of ‘bio’ buyers, according to internal market research studies in the company, this top price is easily exceeded. This year, in spite of the economic situation, no important changes are expected in terms of purchase intention on the end market, but looking towards the chain, “there could be an oversupply in some references and production imbalances due to excesses from last year, which affect both conventional and eco crops,” advances Enrique Cadiñanos, Head of Sales and Development at Bejo. An example of this is the eco carrot market. “As it is a segment with small volumes, last year’s overproduction is affecting it and this might be seen in the prices, although this could change over the next weeks.”
More in the medium term, another problem that the Spanish sector could face is the laxity in the use of the exemptions for untreated seeds in ecological. “While their use continues to be allowed, many will choose them because they are cheaper. Meanwhile, other countries, such as France, Holland and Germany, are already changing, and within their countries they require the compulsory use of eco seeds in certain crops, ahead of the European strategy. For example, in France eco carrots can only be grown now with 100% eco seeds. This gives security to both the producer and to the consumer,” according to Feliú Cusidó, Head of Ecological Crops at Bejo. “If we want to remain on the market, we must all react. There is a great deal of work to be done on this aspect, because in the medium term it could be a handicap for the export market. We must at all costs avoid German eco buyers from going to other sources because in Spain the same product does not come from a 100% eco seed.”
Bejo has been working on this aspect for many years now. “In one or two years, we aim to incorporate our latest varieties, which at the moment are sold without any treatment, to the 100% eco seed catalogue. In the near future, we are going to add a new pointed cabbage, Fernando, to our eco portfolio, along with the smooth cabbage Bronco, the Chinese cabbage Manoko and the Brussels sprout Divino.”
Amongst the most popular are the cauliflowers Skywalker and Adona, the leading Romanesque Veronica, the Milan cabbage Melisa, and in kohlrabi Korist, mainly focused on Murcia.
Another important category includes onions. “In Spain there are already over 500 hectares of eco onions and companies that have specialised and only grow this type of onion. The main onion growers see it as a market opportunity because their clients are asking for them in Germany, for example. In this case, it is the market itself that is promoting the change.”
Amongst the varieties in greatest demand from Bejo are Citation (yellow) and Red Angel (red), both available untreated.
Currently the company’s R&D team are working to obtain 100% eco varieties of beans and they are also looking for new materials with resistances to diseases of all types and strong root systems that bring the maximum guarantees for this type of crop.