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"Unpredictability and weather dependence keep determining Spanish fruit-vegetable season's course"

The new Spanish fruit-vegetable import season has begun. According to Ton Bouw of the Dutch company The Greenery, there are no substantial acreage shifts. "Growers seem to prefer the somewhat less risky crops like zucchini and cucumbers. It has been decided, across the board, to plant slightly later," he begins.

"That's because last year's hot summer caused considerable issues regarding disease pressure. Within the specialties, interest in, particularly, mini cucumbers is increasing. It's an interesting crop for growers and cooperatives. And they seem to be especially popular with German retailers."

Things becoming more unpredictable
"These days, it's tough to make a reliable seasonal forecast. Every year, climate change appears to make things increasingly unpredictable and weather-dependent," says Ton.

"That makes seasonal predictability more difficult, too. For now, as the season starts, the quality's quite good. There haven't been any real availability issues yet, except for a small dip in cucumber availability."

"The Spanish tomato season is also slowly getting going. Demand is excellent, partly due to Dutch tomatoes' limited availability," Ton continues.

"It was also hot in Morocco, and they have virus problems. It looks like most products are going to have a fairly standard first half of the season. How the season half will go remains to be seen. Climate conditions will, again, largely determine this year's market."

ToBRFV preventative measures
When asked about the ToBRFV pressure on the Spanish crop, Ton answers: "It's always there. All sorts of precautions are being taken to reduce risks. These include restrictions on entering greenhouses, more attention to disinfection to limit the plant-to-plant spread, experimenting with new varieties, clear instructions for growers, transporters, etc. However, the virus is still present and could reappear anytime."

"But, viruses aren't a serious threat to only tomatoes. In other crops, like bell peppers, greater disease pressure has become increasingly prominent in recent years. That's again causing anxiety among the various Spanish bell pepper cooperatives for the rest of this year's season," says Bouw.

From low to high-tech
"Some Spanish companies are moving more and more from low to high-tech cultivation. These are the somewhat more progressive growers and companies willing to invest in some form of heated greenhouses, screens, higher greenhouses, and so on. They hope to control their indoor climate and production better and limit disease pressure. Also, it offers the chance to achieve higher yields."

So far, Spain isn't greatly anticipating the Dutch lit cultivation expansion, says Ton. "They're noting it. Should it become a season that hugely affects, say, the tomato and cucumber markets, there will be considered more, but especially towards next season," he explains.

More robotization and mechanization
According to Ton, Spain can still be distinctive compared to, for example, the Moroccan production. Spain has more stable logistics. Also, robotization and mechanization seem to be rapidly expanding in that country as the labor factor becomes more complicated yearly. "Plus, EU agreements can prevent an export ban, as happened with Moroccan tomatoes last season."

"Still, risk spreading - geographically and within the existing regions - will become crucial to ensure sufficient, good products in the coming years. To be well prepared for that, The Greenery has significantly grown its network over the past season, not only in Spain but in the surrounding Mediterranean countries, too. In recent years, we've also worked hard to further expand The Greenery team responsible for sourcing imported fruit-vegetables. Regardless, we're looking forward to the season," Ton concludes.

For more information:
Ton Bouw
The Greenery
Mob.: +31 (0) 612 607 951
Email: [email protected]

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