Bringing together the interests of agricultural organisations, cooperatives, industries and private businesses, the organization has chosen the agricultural engineer Enrique Bellés as its new president. At other times he was already the top leader of Intercitrus. Agriculture Minister Luis Planas has attended the latest plenary meeting, assigning tasks to an organization with scarce resources and tools to defend the interests of an industry that is strictly divided among its members.
The 2021/2022 campaign was about forgetting, right? What predictions do you have for the next?
We started the campaign with some optimism, as the last pains of the increase in citrus demand during the pandemic are still felt. However, we soon realized the impact of the late export from South Africa at the start of the domestic season. Other factors came into play, such as the economic crisis, rising production costs or the outbreak of war in Ukraine. We predict that weather conditions will modulate production to the point of achieving an adequate harvest in volume and optimal in quality.
To what extent will water restrictions from drought affect the citrus sector across Spain?
The impact of the drought was uneven in different production areas. According to the latest data on water reserve published by AEMET, the Guadalquivir basin is at 25% of its capacity, the Segura basin is about 41% and the Júcar basin is over 60%. This is a factor that determines the production estimates for each region, but in regions such as Valencia or Castelló, the problems are mostly due to the constant rains and fog during fruit set.
Trade and cooperatives are for the work of promotional campaigns. What will the yes of agricultural organizations depend on?
This has been the subject of extensive discussion, so I understand that the topic is already quite mature. Each must be responsible for their own actions, and I understand that each group’s position must be disclosed and defended by them. Promotion is necessary in terms of positioning the product in the market, differentiation and creating added value.
Operating costs skyrocket. The margins of the entire food chain have contracted with inflation. To do?
What we’ve seen for a while is that it’s not enough to always be on the same side, asking farmers to adjust their production costs. That talk is already sold out. Well-sized and structured plots, at best, had to sell their harvest at a loss to avoid compromising that of the next campaign. We must seek a balance in the chain that offers a fair wage to all its links. We need the total involvement of the entire chain to ensure that citrus fruits cease to be seen as a banal product or commodity where price is the biggest or the only attribute during the purchasing decision, and to encourage consumers to feel like real winners. The act of purchasing European citrus fruits, of which Spain is the leader.
Brussels approved the cold processing regulation for imported citrus fruits. South Africa does not accept this and goes to the WTO. What to do with paralyzed shipments?
More than the case itself, Intercitrus may be concerned about the power of the South African lobby and the pressure it exerts on all fronts. In any case, the demand should not have a course for different reasons. The paralyzed shipments are the result of a bad strategy by the operators of that country, who already knew the intentions of the European Commission. Intercitrus calls for increased efforts in terms of border control so that these shipments do not pose any risk to 600,000 hectares of European citrus plantations if they enter Community territory.
Does Europe comply with phytosanitary alerts in the citrus sector?
Greater speed in adopting measures and approving regulations will always be appreciated, in addition to greater sensitivity to the characteristics, demands and needs of the citrus sector, which should not be a bargaining chip like other agriculture and livestock sectors. Issues that are not directly related to the signing of major trade agreements that Brussels has committed itself to.
Will the Interprofessional’s headquarters continue in Valencia or is there pressure from the industry to take it to Andalusia or Madrid?
Today, it is easy to maintain continuous communication with all organizations and Public Administrations within Intercitrus via videoconferencing.
Asaja Andalucía left in 2021 saying “Intercitrus is the oldest interprofessional and probably the most inactive”. Inactivity, inactivity, lethargy…
The first thing to note is that the interprofessional is at the state level and its partner is Asaja Nacional, with whom the discussion should be established together, not with Asaja Andalucía, AVA-Asaja, Asaja Alicante or Asaja Murcia. If Asaja Andalucía’s decision has any other nuances beyond the interprofessional inability to accuse him, it is a matter that his national organization must resolve within itself and that I should not enter.
When is a stable presence in Brussels?
Although it is a topic that is visible and to be analyzed, it is not relevant at the moment as the different organizations that make up Intercitrus have open offices in Brussels and in the Administrations. This allows us to gain first-hand knowledge that makes it easy for us to formulate the appropriate strategy. We’ll see if this method is effective or, conversely, the cost of having its own headquarters in Brussels will have to address later.
Why not undertake a “diversity regeneration” by adopting measures that replace unproductive plantations?
Varietal reconversion always plays an important role. We have the best varieties on the market. It is important to organize the production in such a way that it offers the consumer what they demand with a broad program that guarantees the supply to our customers and prevents the phenomenon of excess supply. Research can play an important role.
How do you see the competition from Egypt, Turkey or Morocco?
They have a clear competitive advantage over national productions due to issues such as current labor regulations. These are countries with a clear export profession, with a commitment to increase production volumes in the short and medium term. We must differentiate in terms of quality, variety and service, as well as trying to create market conditions that guarantee fair competition for all with the same game rules. Brussels’ green rhetoric demands only those who come from here, not those there.