Whilst apricot production has grown in the whole European region by 21%, the peach has done so by 1% and the nectarine remains stable or even shows a slight decrease.
The overall volume of apricots in Europe will come to 594,000 tonnes this season, a figure that is 21% higher than in 2011. It is necessary to indicate, however, that during the last campaign, generally speaking, a considerable shortfall in production was recorded.
As for peaches, the expected harvest has risen to 1,481,000 tonnes, which shows a value that is 1% greater than last year’s figure and 5% more compared to the average figure taken from 2006 to 2010.
To be precise, Spanish production of peaches will reach 410,000 tonnes, 2% more than last year and a rise of 30% compared with the average of the last five years. This increase in Spanish production has been especially maintained by the “boom in flat peaches”, which has grown by 40% in Catalonia.
In France, the initial forecasts indicate a decrease of 1%, while in Italy the production level will hold stable with a volume of 703,000 tonnes.
European production of clingstone peaches will reach 748,000 tonnes, which shows a rise of 1%. The reduction in investment affects several areas of production and over the last five years this crop has registered a fall of 24%.
Regarding nectarines, the European harvest will be 1% less than in 2011, with a total of 1,507,000 tonnes. Only Greece maintains a higher yield, one of 7%, while Spain and Italy hold similar forecasts of a 1% increase. For its part, France will show a slight drop of 5%.
Compared with the average of the last five years, both Greece and France record falls of 7 and 10% respectively.
In Spain the increases that are produced in Catalonia, La Rioja, Navarra or Aragon do not compensate for the decline produced in Murcia, Valencia or Andalusia.
The Andalusian season
The season in Andalusia is about to begin and initially it will be providing the market with lower quantities than initially forecast. There is also a question mark looming over what has been the true effect of the winter frosts.
According to Javier Rubiols, President of the Stone Fruit sector of Asociafruit, the winter frosts are one of the factors making this season hard to predict. “In Cordoba and Seville, damage was most serious in those estates that were close to the river and of course to varieties with early flowering. This was not the case in plantations in higher elevations and there was minimal damage in the Huesca Province.”
As for crop forecasts, “I foresee the last fortnight of April and the beginning of May bringing less than half the fruit expected. This means that there shouldn’t be too much pressure at source and suitable price levels will be maintained. Of course, all this will depend on the weather too in destination markets,” points out Javier Rubiols.
The disastrous effects of the cucumber crisis together with the general economic crisis has meant it has been difficult to retain cultivated surface area and the main problem here continues to be the lack of credit available to the agricultural sector. An inability to keep up payments has been largely responsible for crops being abandoned. Nonetheless, there are real efforts being made to diversify the traditional supply to domestic and European markets and extend it to South America or countries in Eastern Europe, in the search for new markets that can maintain the sector’s business.
Significant crop decline
The Andalusia sector has become less competitive as a result of a collective wage agreement which is between 20 and 40% higher than that in other growing regions such as Murcia and Extremadura. The area controlled by Asociafruit – 80% of stone fruit production in Andalusia – has declined from 5,500 hectares in 2007 to 2,800 hectares in 2012. This is a drop in cultivated area of more than 43% and brings with it a subsequent drop in harvested crop which has fallen from 110,000 tonnes in 2007 to around 52, 000 tonnes in 2012. “These figures show that in only five years we have lost half of our production and on a socio-economic level this is significant,” explains the President of the stone fruit sector in Asociafruit.