Spain's Provedo eyes growth for stonefruit varieties in U.S., South Africa
Now well established in the key Mediterranean stonefruit-growing countries of Spain, Italy and Turkey, a leading breeder is increasing its presence in other major production countries around the world to spur on future growth.
Spain-based Provedo started out as a nursery around a century ago, but for the last 17 years has also been breeding its own varieties in a bid to improve the taste of what was on offer for consumers.
Its stonefruit varieties are developed through natural hybrids, and over the years it has launched dozens of cultivars of peaches and nectarines.
"Within the company we have four main products - peaches, nectarines, flat peaches and flat nectarines," Javier Provedo told Fresh Fruit Portal.
Javier, a grandson of the company's founder, now runs the organization with his brother Ignacio.
Some of the more superior stonefruit varieties are marketed under the Extreme brand, which the representative said indicated a great taste and high sugar content.
"As a breeding company we are relatively young, but we have done a lot of work in a short amount of time and we have bred a lot of varieties. We have partners in all the world's main stonefruit-growing countries," he said.
"All our varieties are planted in Mediterranean countries, and now also in Chile, the U.S., South Africa and Australia."
Provedo has been involved in Chile for the last six years, working with the Andes Nursery Association, and in South Africa for six years.
Javier said so far everything had been going very well, but it was inevitable a slow process bringing in new plant material to different countries due to the quarantine process.
More recently the company has expanded into the U.S. and Australia.
In October last year, Freshmax Australia has signed an exclusive rights deal with Provedo to import, test and commercialize the company’s full range of stonefruit varieties.
After returning from a visit to Spain, Andrew Maughan of Freshmax Australia said his company had between 20-25 stonefruit varieties in quarantine awaiting release, sourced from Provedo and other programs.
“We’re looking over the coming years at bringing in additional varieties,” Maughan said.
“I guess the Australian market has been heavily dominated by California-bred varieties to date; the majority of that comes from three or four breeding programs in California.
“The European varieties are a little bit unknown in Australia around how they’ll perform, so a bit of work needs to be done once we get them out of quarantine to test them in our conditions.”
He said the European-bred nectarines didn’t tend to be as low in acid as some of the U.S.-bred cultivars, leading to a slightly different flavor profile.
“We need to see how they perform in Australian conditions, and we need to understand suitability for Asian export markets,” he said.
“Spain has now got access into China for stonefruit so there will be more European-grown fruit going into Asia whereas typically it’s been heavily dominated by American varieties.”
A few leading California fruit companies have also planted the varieties in an experimental stage, but Javier did not want to reveal the names of those involved just yet.
He said the company's sales remain strong in Spain, Italy and Turkey, which he described as the Mediterranean's key peach and nectarine-growing countries, but he did not anticipate the strongest growth to come from these areas.
"Our growth has to come from the increase in plantations where we are starting out - Chile, South Africa, Australia and the U.S.," he said.
Expansion into other countries is not a priority, but rather increasing presence in existing markets.
Part of Provedo's current breeding efforts are focused on developing earlier varieties with low chill requirements.
Javier said this complemented well with trends in Chile and South Africa, where many growers were seeking to boost production in more northern areas to bring the season forward.
The company is also carrying out crosses of plums and apricots to create sweeter varieties.
"We’re are working in many areas within stonefruit," he said.