Poor Spanish weather hits vegetable production, delays berry harvests

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Poor Spanish weather hits vegetable production, delays berry harvests

A long period of cold weather in Spain is resulting in lower vegetable production, but the situation is not as severe as the supply shortages seen last year. 

A representative of supplier Fresh Grower Hub said there would also be impacts on late citrus and early stonefruit varieties, while rains in the south of the country were delaying berry harvests.

Spain has experienced lower than normal temperatures from around late January, and over recent days much of Europe has been gripped in a cold front.

"There have been quite a few days with low temperatures," Fresh Growes Hub's managing director Fernando Moroto told Fresh Fruit Portal.

He said while citrus had been slightly affected in the late varieties - with the likes of Valencia and Alicante even receiving some snow - the season is nearly over and there is little fruit left on the trees.

"But vegetables have been more affected, mostly the open field crops like celery, iceberg [lettuce], broccoli and cauliflower," he said.

"On top of that, stonefruit is blooming, but only the early varieties in the north of Murcia will be affected. The cold weather hasn't been as dramatic in the province's coastal areas," he said.

He explained the majority of early variety production was based along the coast, saying that growers further inland or at higher elevation were worse affected. The Murcian government recently estimated the province's horticultural damages to be in excess of €20 million, with apricot and peach growers among the worst hit.

Moroto also pointed out that last year's supply shortage had been so severe largely because rare snowfall had fallen in the southeast of the country, a major production area. This year, however, there was much less snowfall in the country and it had mainly been in northern and central areas.

In addition,  he said European market vegetable prices this year had not risen to the dizzy heights seen last year, as colder weather throughout the continent had damped demand.

"It had a compensating effect. Prices have not gone down dramatically, but they are not going up as crazily as they did last year," he said.

Berry harvesting delays

Rainfall in southern areas of the country over recent days have also delayed blueberry and strawberry harvests, but Moroto did not expect overall volumes to take much of a hit.

"The berry harvesting has almost stopped - not completely, but volumes [last] week [were] very low, and growers are looking after their greenhouses, structures and plastic cover as there are high winds," he said.

Last week his growers had been expecting to harvest up to around 10 metric tons (MT) of berries, but he said that in the end it would probably be lower than 1.5MT. 

For strawberries specifically, Moroto said that total production volumes were down 12-14% for the year so far despite a 3% increase in planted hectarage.

He added that the weather was expected to improve this week and export delays should not be more than around 10 days.

"The volumes are going to be there. I don't think there should be a significant decrease in the volumes and the availability, it's just a temporary situation," he said.

On a positive note, Moroto said the rainfall had come as a relief to much of the horticultural sector in southern Spain, which has been affected by a drought over the last four years.


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