In May of 2012, the Spanish private producer Fontestad lived through a nightmare; within forty minutes, its ten year old packing station in Museros, Valencia, burned down. With the help of fellow packing stations, they were able to continue working. After a large investment, the firm is now opening a new state-of-the-art packing station with an area of over 48,000 m2 and a capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day. In the peak of the season, and divided into two shifts, there will be as many as 900 people employed in the still highly automated packing station. paid a visit to these giants of the citrus business.

Manuel Ferrer Carbonell, import manager.

Receiving and pre-grading room.

Since the fifties, when it was founded with a small sales unit, the company has not stopped growing. "But growth is not an end in itself. We want to continue growing in terms of quality; not necessarily achieving huge volumes, but step by step," says Manuel Ferrer Carbonell, head for imports within the company. The new warehouse is structured in three parts: the pre-sorting area (9,000 m2), the cold rooms (12,000 m2), packing material (3,600m2) and the treatment and packaging area (24,000 m2). MAF Roda supplied nearly all the machinery.

As much as possible is automated.

Square meters full of packaging material.

110 million kilos of citrus per year

Fontestad has branches in the wholesale markets of Madrid and Perpignan, with a total area of 7,500 m2, (500m2 Madrid + 7,000m2 Perpignan). However, the entire citrus production is packaged in Museros. Its own citrus production amounts to 110 million kilos per year, with about 40% of the total volume coming from the 900 hectares of plantations set up in Valencia, Andalusia and Murcia. "Forty percent of the volume we sell goes to the Spanish domestic market. Our major export destinations are France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Germany," explains Manuel Ferrer Carbonell.

Increasingly more citrus with leaves.

8 exits.

In the summer, Fontestad also imports citrus to be able to supply its customers year-round. The bulk of the volume of oranges and clementines comes from South Africa (90%), supplemented by production from Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. "Just like with the Spanish production, we enforce strict selection criteria. Our goal every day is to supply the best quality and service to our customers," affirms Manuel Ferrer Carbonell.

The control room, where everything is monitored.

Twenty photos of one orange.

Due to their focus in South Africa, they are closely involved in all measures relating to the Citrus Black Spot (CBS). "We are growers and consequently want to ensure that all risks for Spanish producers are prevented. The risk is minimal, but it exists if high temperatures are registered in September. And politicians also naturally do everything to protect our crops." We also know that the farmers in South Africa are making a big effort in order to prevent this risk.

Samples from the cooling can be automatically controlled from the monitoring room.

Luxury packaging with the Mademoiselle brand.

The importer is namely trying to make the most of the situation. "South Africa has shipped a much lower volume this year, but the fruit has been of significantly better quality; this has resulted in good prices and probably the best season ever for South African exporters. The market was empty when Spain hit the market, which resulted in good prices at the start of the season. Revenues were predicted to fall by 20-25% and that assessment now seems to be accurate. However, there are more large sizes, and thus more marketable fruit."

Sealed oranges which are sent primarily to France.

New varieties
While many companies in Valencia are making the switch to persimmons, Fontestad will remain a citrus specialist. "While we wish to continue growing citrus, we will also continue looking for new varieties. We see a growing demand for Clementines and Oronules and Orri mandarins. The biggest challenge is to introduce high-quality early and late varieties in order to reduce the window between the northern and southern hemispheres," affirms the citrus fruit marketer. Fontestad supplies fruit both under its own brands and under private supermarket labels in every conceivable packaging format between 1 and 20 kg.

Last season, the citrus producer started shipping Spanish oranges to China; whether they will continue supplying this market, according to the grower, will depend on the available quality and volumes. "It was a good experience. China is particularly interested in the variety Lane Late, but logistically the Chinese market is a challenge, and the Chinese impose strict conditions. In any case, its emerging middle class certainly means it is a market with potential, in which people are willing to pay for a higher quality product."

The future is looking bright for Fontestad, according to Manuel Ferrer Carbonell. "We have invested heavily in recent years and we expect that to yield us good results. Our facilities are equipped with the latest technology in quality systems for the processing and treatment of citrus, which are selected by colour, size, weight and internal and external quality. I have every confidence in the future as long as we continue to adhere to the Fontestad philosophy, which is to never compromise on quality!"

For more information:
Manuel Ferrer Carbonell
Fontestad, S.A.
Carretera CV 32, km 9
46136 Museros Valencia, Spain
Tel: 0034 961 450 655