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Berries, an alternative to the strawberry monoculture

Olatz Ruiz

Huelva province is responsible for between 80-90% of red berry production in Spain. For years, the towns bordering the strawberry fields, such as Rociana, Bonares and Lucena del Puerto, have focused on raspberries and other red berries.

Initially, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries were produced as complementary fruit to the area's protagonist, the strawberry; however, due to the latter's depletion and competition in the European Union, berries have become a true alternative in Huelva.

While strawberry prices slipped by 20% during the last harvest, raspberry production totaled 11,480 tons, leading to an increase in exports, which is the final destination of almost 95% of this fruit.

The production of fall varieties of raspberries and blackberries is in full swing, while the first cranberry harvest is expected in March. However, it seems that a smaller area will be allotted for the raspberries being planted at the moment, for a later harvest, as farmers fear a slide in prices in spring, as occurred last year due to competition with local producers in Europe, the berry's main market.

The area dedicated to raspberries in 2013/2014 was 1,300 hectares, 14% more than in the previous season; 1,150 hectares for cranberries (+19%); and 70 hectares for blackberries (+23%), according to Fepex.

Despite being a minority crop, red berries yielded 100 million euros for the last three harvests. As for their contribution to the trade balance in Spain and Andalusia, strawberry and red berry crops brought in more than 500 million euros from exports.

Traditional export markets include the UK, France and Germany, where consumption is more frequent and their use in cooking is more common than in Spain, where the bulk of berry production is for export. Demand is lower in Spain since they are not a common food.

A trade mission organized by the provincial council is expected to visit Huelva, comprised of investors and companies interested in entering markets such as Ireland, Denmark and Norway, countries which producers have identified as being the most interesting and which are home to discerning consumers who want fresh products, and where overproduction of this type of fruit is not an issue.

Onubafruit, a leader in raspberries

Onubafruit, which comprises several cooperatives, has strengthened its top position in the berry segment as the leader production and sales in Europe and the biggest raspberry producer in Spain, where it's responsible for 60% of production.

Following several years of research, and with annual investments of over 1 million euros, this season Onubafruit will be the exclusive seller of four types of exceptional, unique raspberries: Imara, Kweli, Lagorie and Vajolet, which will be available from the beginning of September through the end of June. With a volume of over 10,000 tons of raspberries and sales lasting more than 10 months, the company is gaining market share.

Onubafruit also has commercial ties with Germany, England, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, and has completed sales to Canada and Hong Kong.

During the last edition of Fruit Attraction, Onubafruit reached an agreement with Sofruce, a leader in fresh fruit and vegetable distribution in Europe, forming a strategic alliance that will provide a boost for Huelva's strawberry and berry market.

Other companies are also working to perfect their specialized crops. Agrícola El Bosque, which sells its blackberries under the "La Canastita" brand, started to export its red berries by airplane to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt, which was a positive experience that led to sales in Dubai and Kuwait.

SAT Royal, in Seville province, produces cranberries in Morocco and raspberries in both Morocco and Portugal. It also produces blackberries. Of total production, 90% is exported through large European chains.

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30/10/2017