Southern Spanish growers took a battering from cold weather earlier this year, mostly for vegetable and citrus crops, but the situation has not been so grim for the country’s strawberry farmers. At PBUK we caught up with Freshuelva manager Rafael Domínguez, who said there hadn’t been significant damages in crops as a result of frosts.
In fact, Domínguez claimed the contrary.
“We have seen an increase in quality of crops which could be precisely attributed to the low temperatures which, however, haven’t been excessively low as in other years,” he said.
Unfortunately, until mid-February harvests year-on-year had been down 50%, but the executive said the frosts were not to blame.
“But we have to keep in mind that the last campaign started with exceptionally high volumes due to the very warm winter, which led to a speeding up of the season by approximately one month,” he said.
Domínguez clarified this campaign had been more “normal”, mainly because “the winter has been more typical for our zone in terms of the cold and days of rain, which determines the development of the crop more in accordance with the seasons.
“Now the spring is starting when really both consumption and production reach important levels.
He said all the early in normal season varieties were in production, and harvesting rates were about the same as what were seen at the start of March in 2016.
In the 2016 season Huelva produces 295,000 metric tonnes (MT) of strawberries, and Domínguez is confident the final production figures this year will be at the same level.
“The production of them also depends on the price paid in the market, which allows us to extend the campaign or not,” he said.
The executive emphasised the industry was always looking to new markets and the opening of new commercial channels.
“In that sense we have been working for a while, through Fepex, to activate commercial protocols with global areas which could be potential consumers or importers of berries, such as the countries of the Middle East and Asia, while working on developing trade relationships with the countries of northern Europe where an attractive interest is being uncovered for soft fruit,” he said.
He said significant efforts were also underway to develop new local varieties which would reduce the sector’s dependence on foreign programmes.
“The native varieties obtained by the company Fresas Nuevos Materiales (a company created in 1999), are having very good results and are adapting very well to the weather conditions of the area and responding to the market demands.
“The varieties Primoris, Rociera and Rábida have been part of this campaign, together with Fortuna, as the varieties most chosen by the Huelva growers, who are very happy with the results. Fresas Nuevos Materials will keep researching other varieties for the coming years.”