Fruca Marketing is a produce wholesaler based in Murcia, Spain. Through the years, it has grown into a giant in the area of lettuce, melons and watermelons, citrus, and bell peppers. At the start of the melon season, we paid a visit to this company. There, the Dutch Mariska de Zoete has been working in the company's Sales Division for eight years now.
Mariska with the packing plant's chef.
"We had 125 mm of rain in April. This is unusual for this region. This rainfall caused the first part of the harvest to be somewhat lower. For us, that resulted in 30-35% fewer Galias, 20-35% fewer Cantaloupes, and 5-10% fewer yellow and watermelons," says Mariska.
"Last year the demand in the Northwest of Europe began more quickly too. This was due to the dry weather there. This year, everything is a little more difficult. That, however, says nothing about the next harvest in Cartagena. Melons are extremely weather dependent. Nice weather in our sales countries can change the situation dramatically."
Melon harvesting in full swing.
Watermelons are a fast-growing category
At Fruca, melons total an area of 350 hectares of yellow melons, 450 hectares of Galia, and 250 hectares of Cantaloupe. Then there are 70 hectares of Charentais melons, 40 hectares of Piel de Sapo, and 140 hectares of watermelons. "Watermelons, in particular, form a fast-growing category," continues Mariska.
Melons are harvested using the same machines as those used to harvest iceberg lettuce. However, the iceberg lettuce is packaged directly on the field. The melons are packed in the packaging plant. This washing, sorting, and packaging plant can pack 60,000kg of melons or 14,000kg of bell peppers per hour. Fruca also has 42,000m3 of cooling space, which includes four vacuum coolers.
According to Mariska, the company's strength lies in its scale. "We have a large volume of melons as well as lettuce, citrus, and bell peppers, at our disposal. In the summer, the emphasis is on bell peppers and melons. We supply citrus year round. In the winter, the focus is on lettuce and bell pepper cultivation. In this way, we can easily combine products," she says.
"We prefer working without intermediaries and are the source, ourselves, at all times. We work with several growers who supply us on a contract basis. Their cultivation is done according to our standards and with our technical support. It is also besides our own cultivation. We also breed the plants in-house. This means we control the entire process - from seedling to the end client," Mariska explains.
Fruca Marketing supplies retailers, wholesalers, and processors throughout Europe. Most of the produce is exported to countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Poland, and Italy. "For example, the Dutch supermarket chain, Albert Heijn, has been a client from the get-go. Our cultivation and export experience means we know which specifications our sales countries expect," says Mariska. She is responsible for exports to, among others, the British market.
She cannot say what effect a possible Brexit may have. "However, it is, of course, potentially a big problem. We have already seen that various transport companies that go to the UK are looking for other markets. The sector cannot actually afford those long waiting times. It may take a day or two longer for the goods to reach the client."
1,700 hectares of iceberg lettuce
The company's lettuce acreage totals 1,700 hectares of iceberg lettuce, 70 hectares of Little Gems, and 90 hectares of Romaine and mini-Romaine lettuce. About 120 hectares are reserved for the other lettuce specialties. The total endive area comes to 90 hectares, and that of bell peppers is 475 hectares. Of this, 138 hectares are in Morocco, and 312 hectares of traditional cultivation can be found in Murcia and Almeria, Spain. There is 25 ha of high-tech cultivation in Murcia too.
There are also Sweet Palermos, which are sweet pointed peppers, and the Tribelli snack bell peppers in Fruca's assortment. These are besides the Californian block bell peppers. In recent years, organic cultivation has become a focal point for the company. "The German and Scandinavian buyers, in particular, are taken in by this," Mariska says.
Fruca Marketing is a family business. Son, Jose Cánovas Ruiz, followed in his father's footsteps. The company's roots lie in citrus. The citrus packaging facilities are based in the Spanish mountain village of Beniaján. "We supply lemons, mandarins, and grapefruit. We can process 20,000kg of citrus per hour. We have a separate line, with an 8,000kg/hr capacity, for organic lemons," Mariska goes on to say.
All in all, these are impressive statistics. "But above all, our clients know we are a stable company. They appreciate our products' quality and know we do as we promise," concludes Mariska.