Spain explores kiwifruit possibilities

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Spain explores kiwifruit possibilities

Still a small fish in a big pond, Spanish kiwifruit growers are making a push to expand a relatively new industry.

The Valencia Farmers Association head of technical service, José Francisco Sales, spoke on the unsure future that faces the small industry.

“I see kiwifruit as an alternative for farmers. The idea isn’t for everyone in Valencia to plant kiwifruit. Simply, the farmer is at his disposition to change from traditional crops,” he explained.

Currently, Spanish kiwifruit production is concentrated in Galicia and Asturias. In the past few years, however, Valencia has warmed up to production, seeking out alternatives to less than profitable traditional crops.

“There’s interest, not just in kiwifruit, but also in alternative crops, something different than the traditional crops from the zone," Sales said.

"The motive is profitability. Here, the community is known by everyone for citrus cultivation, vegetable crops and fruit crops, and unfortunately, these crops lately are not profitable for farmers."

Alongside avocados, pomegranates and persimmons, kiwifruit are appealing more to financially concerned farmers.

Spanish kiwifruit production is still in its formative stages, however, putting out an estimated 23,000 tons (MT) a year by Spanish government estimates.

This compares to around 150,000 MT of annual consumption a year by the Spanish public, according to Sales. The gap means Spain still falls largely into the category of kiwifruit importer rather than exporter.

Given the international reality of Psa disease, Sales explained that Spain remains unsure of its ability to significantly expand the industry.

“All of this depends on the evolution of the bacteria. In this moment, we know there’s a grave worldwide problem. This bacterium is doing a lot of damage to kiwifruit production in Italy and New Zealand; in Chile there are problems too but a little less,” Sales said.

“In this moment, the bacteria is disseminating all over the world. Here in Spain, it appears the bacteria entered Galicia but luckily in Valencia, there doesn’t appear to be any occurrence of the bacteria.”

So far, Spain has avoided extensive damage from Psa, but its existence in Galicia communicates the crop’s vulnerability.

“What they’ve basically done is control all vegetable material and the topic of pollen, because that’s a point of transmission. We recommend to all farmers that what they have to do is utilize plants from in vitro planting. That way you can insure the safety of the plant.”

Spanish kiwifruit professionals will meeting Dec. 12-13 in Valencia to discuss topics like Psa and other challenges impacting cultivation.

For the moment, Sales is holding out his judgment for what the future may hold.

“[The kiwi’s] development could be interesting, it could function. But, of course, we’ll have to see what the evolution of the bacteria is because maybe the bacteria could be what limits us in the moment in terms of rapid expansion of the crop,” Sales said.

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