Carmen Benítez. Journalist @cabeherrero
When we refer to the organized berry industry in Spain, the most common products are raspberries, blackberries and cranberries. They are grown mainly in Huelva province, although they are also produced in Asturias, Galicia and Extremadura.
They initially appeared as an option to enable strawberry companies in Huelva to diversify their offer, but they are currently a sector whose growing area remains stable in general and whose exports continue to expand.
They are primarily eaten fresh, though they are also used to make nutritional juices, jams, syrups and other products for which demand is growing.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Spain ranked second globally in terms of berry production in 2011, behind the US. Huelva's Association of Strawberry Producers and Exporters, Freshuelva, estimates that the growing area for berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries) increased by over 7% in the 2012/2013 harvest, for a total of 8,991 hectares planted in the province.
Raspberry production in the 2012/2013 harvest totalled 10,550 tons, i.e. a decline of 5% with respect to the previous period, of which around 150 tons were allotted for industrial processing. Raspberry prices have increased by 2%, i.e. by 69.5 million euro in total.
Cranberries and blackberries took center stage during the period, as the growing areas for both increased. The former have more than 900 hectares and the latter around 60 hectares.
The increase in total hectares for mixed berries is largely due to the greater popularity of cranberries and blackberries. The cranberry growing area has expanded by 24.06% this harvest, although this increase is not directly proportional to greater production, as the bushes start to bear fruit three years after being planted.
The blackberry growing area has increased by 14%. In contrast, the number of hectares planted for raspberries has fallen by 5%.
This data confirms that mixed berries have gained strength as an alternative to strawberries.
Where are these berries headed, in terms of consumption by households and the hospitality segment? As with most agri-food products, they are exported, although domestic consumption is also gaining strength.
It's worth noting that raspberry exports to Portugal have nosedived by 78%, and sales to France have also slipped, from 21% in 2012 to 20.5% in 2013.
However, exports to the UK have increased. In terms of total exports to Europe, sales were up by 21.5% compared with 2012 in EU member states and by 61% in non-EU countries.
As for the rest of the world, the figures are very positive, with exports rising by 23.73% compared with the previous harvest.
According to Freshuelva, the area for growing berries (raspberries, blackberries and cranberries) will expand by 16% in the 2013/2014 harvest, to 2,520 hectares, while the area for strawberries will remain stable, increasing by 2% to 6,980 hectares.