Lettuce has established itself as the star of Murcian agricultural exports. In 2019, the region of Murcia exported 510,000 tons of lettuces, which is equivalent to 68% of all Spanish lettuce exports. The region's exports amounted to 475 million euro, i.e. 58% more than five years ago, stated the Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Luengo, during the launch of the campaign to promote lettuces and salads from the Region of Murcia.
This initiative, led by the Ministry and supported by the Association of Producers-Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables of the Region of Murcia (Proexport), is officially part of the regional government's Productos de la Region de Murcia campaign (Products from the Region of Murcia) to support sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sector has had some concern about the future of the Iceberg lettuce, a variety that came from California and that still accounts for 82% of Murcia's lettuce export, but that is showing some decline.
This lettuce variety surpassed the 400,000 tons in the region for the first time in 2017. Since then, it has decreased by 8% while the Romain variety has increased by more than 11%.
This evolution confirms the estimates made by the president of the Iceberg Lettuce Sector of Proexport, Javier Soto, in 2016. Back then, he told La Verdadthat the high concentration of intermediation and distribution were pushing down the value of the Iceberg variety as the range of salads and lettuce varieties were growing in the market. This trend, he said, will cause a reduction in Iceberg productions in the coming years benefitting other categories or varieties that have some added value nowadays.
Due to this change in trend, the sector has been researching this vegetable for some time. This research has led to the creation of the multiple varieties being grown now, which - in the words of Proexport's director, Fernando Gomez- "differentiate us." There are 14 horticultural experimentation centers in the Region, he stated.