The Algarve's citrus growers are having "a bad campaign" in 2019, which makes a new approach to the market, in terms of marketing, even more urgent. Who says so is José Oliveira, president of AlgarOrange producer association, which recently reviewed the sector in the region.
Citrus growers, agricultural entrepreneurs, researchers and technicians from the Algarve gathered in the same room to take stock of the campaign, a practice that is already taking place in other ranks and in other regions of the country, but which took place for the first time in the Algarve region in the on the 26th of June, at NERA's premises, in Loulé.
The challenge of carrying out this initiative came from COTHN - Operational and Technological Center for National Fruit and Vegetables and was addressed to AlgarOrange, a recently created association that brings together nine of the main citrus producers in the region.
“These campaign balances are something we've done since our creation. We started with apples and pears, because we were there in the West, and then moved on to the prunoids part, in Beira Interior, with cherry, plum and peach. More recently, we have been doing it in Ribatejo, with the hortoindustries and with potatoes», revealed Carmo Martins, COTHN general secretary, on the sidelines of the session.
«For some time now, due to the dynamics of the citrus sector and the constant challenges facing the sector, we thought it was interesting to bring the balance sheet model to the Algarve. With the appearance of AlgarOrange, all the conditions were created for this to happen», he added.
The association of producers was created at a time when the sector was coming from a series of good years, in which it grew consecutively and got good prices to sell its production. However, this year everything changed, for the worse.
“This campaign is being bad for most operators. We are talking about a drop in the sale price of around 25 cents», revealed José Oliveira.
Because, he says, "the campaign started a month late, because the weather conditions did not allow the oranges to reach the sweetness, acidity and brix values that would allow them to be placed on the market."
Thus, the marketing window for the different varieties, which is usually three months, was reduced to two. With the increase in supply, the market reacted "as we know it does: with falling values".
And all that is needed is for the first variety to arrive on the market later for the entire campaign to be conditioned. This is because, explained José Oliveira, «when the next variety starts to go to the market, it is still flooded by the previous one».
This problem occurred with the Primavera variety, which meant that good prices were not obtained in the early days of placing oranges on the stands, as usual. The same should happen with the summer variety.
Despite this year's bad campaign being, to a large extent, associated with weather conditions, the president of AlgarOrange does not foresee that prices can return to the values they reached in recent years.
A few years ago, and after a strong downturn in the sector, the Algarve citrus growers invested heavily in the renovation and technical equipping of their orchards.
This allows, nowadays, to produce more citrus fruits than ever, even though the planted area has decreased.
“There is a huge amount of young orchards coming into production, which from year to year increase the amount of citrus fruit”, warned José Oliveira.
With more citrus fruit on the market, the trend is for prices to drop. This means that producers have "to think about new marketing strategies", which, for the leader of AlgarOrange, is, nowadays, "the most important variable in the business".
One of the association's major bets is internationalization, whether through greater dissemination of the Algarve's citrus fruit across borders, or going to visit tourists.
«We, in the Algarve, have an incredible number of hotels and restaurants. Have you seen what it would be like to have half of these establishments consuming oranges for juice? The industry pays 6 cents for the fruit, which is what the harvest costs. With the hotel industry, we would certainly get better prices», illustrated José Oliveira.
This purpose is contemplated in an application presented by AlgarOrange to European Union Funds, with a view to the internationalization of the sector, whose results should be known at any time.
A Algarve Tourism Region recently hosted a meeting that brought together producers and businessmen in the tourism sector, with a view to future collaborations between the two sectors.
The idea is to make the main industry in the region leverage a traditional sector in which the Algarve is a national and international reference, the citrus fruit.