dimanche 1 mai 2016

77- Bad weather -8- ... in destination


The climate news, as usual, still shakes my publication schedule. This time it's an indirect problem, with very direct consequences.

A significant proportion of agricultural products are to be transported relatively far from their place of production. This is true whether we speak of exports, it is also true within a country, to send food from early areas to late areas, or to supply large cities, sometimes very remote from production areas.

So I work in peach and nectarine production, in southern Spain, for the European export market, in ultra-early season.
Spain has focused, with great success for 40 years, a large part of its economic development, on agricultural production exported to its European neighbors. Some traditional productions have been increased, such as rice, bananas, olive oil, wine, almonds, tomatoes, cork or watermelon, among many other things, some have been developed especially for this purpose, such as strawberry or blueberry, others had seen a recent implantation, and found themselves to be of primary interest productions, as is the case of cotton.
The company I work for has pioneered 45 years ago with the production of peaches and nectarines in an area that did not have, and was imitated because the conditions are interesting, though difficult. We start the harvest around April 15 to finish around June 15, when the production of the north of Spain, France and Italy begins to be plentiful, and competition begins to play against us.

These days, after various and complicated climatic events (lack of cold, then spring frosts, then lack of light, see my last 4 articles on bad weather), the weather returned to normal conditions and we are beginning to regain an usual level of quality.
Competing regions have strongly suffered from the lack of cold and spring frosts, so that Western Andalusia is almost alone in the European market, with low presence of fruit from Morocco, for example.
Our orchards are currently producing at full capacity.
But our cold rooms are full of fruits that don't find buyer.


Certain types of foods are very sensitive to climatic conditions of the place of consumption.
You don't have the same food cravings if the weather is nice and warm, than if it's cold and snowy. Obviously, we are talking about people in stable situation and with sufficient resources to be able to choose. It's a luxury of which we are not conscious, but that at least half of the world's population can’t afford.
In rich countries, it has become normal to find a wide variety of fresh produce in all seasons.

This is the case of peach and nectarine, classified as "summer fruits" because their consumption becomes really important when it's hot. This is also the case, for example, for melon or apricot.
If it is cold, sales focus more on fruits like apple or banana.
The same phenomenon occurs with some vegetables or certain types of meals. In short, if we have the possibility, we like to eat differently if it's hot, and if it's cold.

Yet for ten days, the weather is cold and bad in key destination areas of our fruit. It is snowing in Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, etc. In France, heavy unusually late spring frosts have seriously damages sensitive crops such as vines and fruit trees. Winter has made a very late and strong comeback that causes serious problems on place, and a brutal crash in the consumption of summer products.
On the other hand, some political problems can heavily influence the market. This is the case of the closure of borders with Russia. Last year, we had almost avoided the consequences. Not this year.

We end up with a larger amount of fruits than usual for April, thanks to the precocity of the year (the lack of cold), but often with a quality level lower than normal (the lack of light), a delicate fruit (physiological consequence of spring frosts), and great difficulties for sale.

In the daily management of the harvest, the problems are many and complex:
-       We can send to the packing station only the
marketable fruit in these circumstances. But it is necessary that pickers properly make this sorting the orchard. It is difficult, slow and expensive.
-       Despite this, we pick more than what we are currently able to sell. Peach is a fruit of which it is impossible to delay the harvest, otherwise it passes overripe and become unmarketable. We are condemned to pick, or to let the harvest be lost on the tree.
-       Cold rooms are saturated with unsold fruit, so harvesting packaging are not released. The lack of crop boxes can oblige to sacrifice the fruits we decided not to pick for lack of boxes.
-       Despite the lack of fruit, the market is saturated and prices collapse. We generally only sell the largest and sweetest fruits. We therefore greatly increase the percentage of fruit sent to the industry and to the trash.

Nervousness is palpable and we can't say that the atmosphere is downright cheerful and relaxed ...

In short, this first part of the season, usually rather quiet and generally embellished with favorable prices, is converted into technical and commercial chaos.
We have to focus on the rest of the season, hoping, first that the weather improves in Europe and the market regain a certain serenity, and secondly that our fruit regain the quality level that has made, for over 40 years, our reputation in the European market.

Nothing is ever won in advance in a harvest season. A serious problem can occur at any time and totally disrupt the campaign, and the economy of companies that depend on it.

All climate phenomena of this year have already occurred since I am working in this company.
Yet this year is exceptional by the accumulation of adverse events.
Hopefully we stood there ...

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