Ingeborg van Geldermalsen worked as a teacher of Latin American languages and literature at the University of Utrecht, when she went on holiday to the Spanish horticultural area of Almería one winter. That drastically changed her life, for she was immediately enchanted and did not leave. After working in tourism for a number of years, she has now been working as part of the five-headed commercial team of cooperative Murgiverde for 11 years already.
Murgiverde has 700 member cultivators, amounting to 160,000 kilograms of production per year. The cooperative has four packing stations throughout the entire horticulture area, two of which are specifically equipped for organic products. “Organic is on the rise. More and more horticulturalists are switching. This year we expect an expansion of 25 per cent. Of 1,500 hectares in total, we have 400 hectares for organic by now,” Van Geldermalsen explains.
Ingeborg van Geldermalsen and Antonio Ruiz Rodriguez during the Fruit Attraction in Madrid last month.
According to Van Geldermalsen, horticulture in Almería has remained popular. “Because of the economic crisis, many young people from, for example, construction, went into horticulture. The number of modern greenhouses is also rising significantly. In general, our growers deliver their products to the packing stations themselves, after which we sell them throughout Europe. We have permanent customers in countries including Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, France and Switzerland.”
The warm weather in Spain has had consequences for production. “We expect seven per cent more courgettes, eight per cent more bell peppers, ten per cent less aubergines, 20 per cent less plum tomatoes and similar volumes of vine tomatoes and cucumbers,” says Murgiverde’s commercial manager, Antonio Ruiz Rodriguez. The cooperative supplies a complete package of Almería grown greenhouse vegetables, including melons, though cucumbers represent the largest share.
According to him, there is always competition between Spanish and Dutch product. “Right now, the situation for a product such as bell peppers is difficult, because both countries have sufficient production. Dutch supply of cucumbers is gradually decreasing, and Spanish supply is increasing, making the transition smooth. Aubergines are also doing well. But the seasonal start for courgettes was dramatic. I have been active in this business since 1994, but I have never before seen such a dramatic market. The market appears to be recovering somewhat now, but there was absolutely no demand during the first weeks.”