Almeria's pepper acreage is growing; a trend which should continue in the 2015/2016 campaign, when it is expected to increase again by at least 3 percent over the 9,378 hectares of the previous year, according to preliminary prospects of the Provincial Delegation of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment of the Government of Andalusia.
In fact, as pointed out by Andrés Góngora, provincial secretary of the agricultural organization COAG-Almería, it appears that "the trend is for pepper specialties such as the Kapia, Sweet bite, etc. to continue gaining popularity, since smaller sizes are being produced which are yielding very successful results and helping open new markets in Europe."
Another reason for the slight growth in the number of hectares is, according to Francisco Vargas, president of Asaja-Almería, "because of the new greenhouses being built in the area of Berja, which are intended for the production of peppers, courgettes and beans, but especially the first two crops."
Regarding transplantation dates, peppers have maintained a similar trend for a few years, with the earliest taking place in the area of Dalías and Berja (where the harvest has already been on-going for several weeks), followed by producers along the West. In fact, Andrés Góngora announced that this time "the area of Roquetas has carried out a later planting. The good news is that we're managing to obtain a staggered production during the entire cycle, thus preventing oversupply at any time during the campaign."
When it comes to varieties, bell peppers remain the most cultivated in the province; meanwhile, the Lamuyo is gaining stability and the Palermo is expanding, assured Francisco Vargas, president of Asaja-Almería.
However, early estimates for tomatoes are quite different. According to the Provincial Delegation of Agriculture, the acreage devoted to the cultivation of tomatoes could remain stable, with only 1 percent less than in the previous season, when a total of 11,206 hectares were planted. As stated by José Antonio Aliaga, Chief of Agriculture, Industry and Quality of the Delegation of Agriculture, "while peppers are expanding, tomatoes in Almeria have entered a downward trend." In fact, the assessments carried out by the agricultural organizations are pointing in the same direction. According to the provincial secretary of COAG-Almería, "the acreage devoted to on the vine, pear and salad tomatoes will go down because growers are switching to crops with smaller calibres, since costs for other varieties are constantly on the rise and prices are far from ideal."
By regions, Francisco Vargas, president of Asaja-Almería, points out that "Nijar and Bajo Andarax will likely register an increase in the acreage due to the construction of new greenhouses," while sources from COAG-Almería assure that the number of hectares in La Cañada and El Alquián will remain stable.
Lastly, as far as production volumes are concerned, no major changes are expected for either peppers or tomatoes compared to the previous horticultural campaign.
At this time last year it was announced that Almeria's vegetable production would be affected by the Russian veto, and this is something which has been observed throughout the season, although eventually with no remarkable incidents. However, Francisco Vargas, president of Asaja-Almería, explains that "the Russian veto is not having any impact on the transplants of most of the vegetables and their varieties at the start of the current campaign, but it is true that we'll have to wait a few weeks, as the cherry cocktail is, in fact, a product that went, for the most part, to the Russian market, so we do not know how the campaign will develop in this regard. We will also have to wait and see how pear tomatoes do and whether plantings of small sizes will increase, as this is the calibre that goes to Russia."
Incidence of pests
The biggest downside at the start of the current season in the province of Almeria is the high incidence of whitefly that is being registered compared to previous years. According to the agricultural organization COAG-Almería, "the issue is being detected both in the West and the East of the country. Furthermore, we have also found the presence of the spotted virus in peppers, the New Delhi virus in courgettes or the TYLCV in tomatoes due to the high presence of whitefly." Additionally, COAG-Almería has also been informed that in the area of Nijar "there are small cucumbers affected by whitefly, which can cause problems if viruses are not removed." Therefore, the agricultural organization has issued a call for growers to adopt extreme safety and hygiene measures in farms and to eradicate any whitefly outbreak so that the viruses cannot spread to other crops close by.