The soft fruit harvesting season in the province of Huelva, where 90 percent of Spain's exported berries come from, is developing with optimal quality, a similar cultivated area to the previous year along with uncertainties arising from rising input prices, among other drawbacks.
The harvest season in Spain 's main berry-producing area is in full swing. The total area planted with red berries in the province of Huelva amounts to 11,802 hectares this 2022/2023 season, an increase of 0.53 percent, slightly higher than last year, with an increase in areas planted with strawberries and blueberries.
The strawberry maintains its production leadership and premium quality in the Huelva countryside. According to data provided by the Association of Strawberry and Red Fruit Producers and Exporters of Huelva, Freshuelva, the area cultivated this year amounts to 6,295 hectares, 2 percent more than the 6,167 hectares cultivated last year.
This strawberry season began with an initial delay in the harvest of some plantings, due to crop replanting that extended into November due to the effects of drought and high temperatures in October.
Another exponent of the sector is blueberry, of superior organoleptic quality and established as the second most important berry in the province. The acreage of this highly nutritious small blue fruit, whose production increased by 20 percent last season, continues to grow. This year it has increased by 2 percent, from 3,532 hectares last season to 3,602 hectares this year.
The area under blueberry has increased by 8.6 percent in the past three years, although despite these good figures, this red fruit has to live with strong international competition, especially in the spring. Thanks to variety diversification, the sector has managed to anticipate production and gain market share against countries such as Chile and Peru.
Blackberry plantings also increased slightly by 3 percent, from 139 to 143 hectares. New varieties allow growers to grow this fruit virtually year-round, maintaining a steady supply for their selected market.
Despite the overall growth in berries, the most negative figure concerns raspberries, whose cultivated area decreased by 7.5 percent with 1,762 hectares compared to 1,902 last year. This is the red fruit most affected by competition from non-EU crops, "which compete on European markets under unequal conditions," according to Freshuelva. Faced with this problem, many growers have decided to opt for other berries in search of more secure profitability.
The soft fruit sector, which generates thousands of jobs, is facing a season full of uncertainties. Increased production costs, largely due to the war in Ukraine, are unlikely to be offset by the prices received by growers. In addition, the sector points out among the circumstances that will negatively affect the current season are the limitations imposed by measures taken to cope with the drought or some controversial decisions by the Spanish government, such as restrictions on the use of registered plant protection products for pest control or the new tax on plastics, which leave the sector in a less competitive condition than its competitors even within the EU.
Europe, with Germany, France and the United Kingdom leading the list of consuming countries, is the main destination for Spanish berries. Thanks to diversification and a commitment to efficient varieties, Huelva berries are present in these markets virtually all year round.
Freshuelva, in cooperation with growers and marketers, works continuously to find and diversify markets, and three seasons ago, for example, managed to open the Canadian strawberry market. It has also been working for years to open the Chinese market for blueberries, as well as new marketing channels.
Source: eComercio Agrario