The cherry campaign has already started in the earliest areas of the Spanish region of Aragon with almost two weeks of delay due to the impact of colder than usual weather, accompanied by occasional frosts. Sales have started with good prices in a market eager for this seasonal product.
"We have started shipping the first volumes this week, 12 days later compared to the previous season," says Carlos Llambrich, manager of Llamfruit Cherry.
"The spring has been colder and cloudier than usual, and at the end of March we even suffered the impact of frosts, which took a toll on our plantations in Mequinenza, mainly of the Santina and Chelan varieties. However, the production in other areas of Zaragoza and Lleida is much more affected," he says.
"We expect to have lost around 20% of the crop, compared to the initial prospects, although it remains to be seen in the end if the size of the fruit will compensate a little for the lower volumes, since large sizes abound this year," says the grower and exporter, who claims that the quality is extraordinary this year. "Never before have we started a cherry season with so few cracking problems."
The weather is now sunny and warm, which is facilitating the fruit formation and is expected to boost the fruit's consumption. The delay in the harvest has been observed in almost all Spanish and European producing areas.
"We have been receiving calls for days asking for some cherries to be loaded, as there is always a lot of interest to start with a seasonal product like this, after several months with winter fruit. We thought the delay would lead to lower prices, but apparently there wasn't much fruit available either in other early areas. The starting prices are good and we hope that the overall lack of volumes in Europe this year will allow us to keep prices at better levels in the months in which there is usually more supply, such as June," said Carlos Llambrich. "And cherries won't be the only fruit affected by shortages; the drop in the volumes of peaches, nectarines and apricots is much greater, and this applies also to other summer fruits, such as melons and watermelons," he says.
It is feared, however, that as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Turkey will ship most of its production to EU countries, which is where the main markets for Spanish cherries are. "It is still too early to tell, as Turkey is starting a little later," says Carlos, whose sales this year will focus on the European markets. "In recent years we have been growing quite a bit in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, but this year air freight costs have skyrocketed and it is difficult to find loading space on planes. If it is possible to pass this cost increase on to final prices we will continue to ship good volumes, although I expect it will be difficult for us to increase our exports to these destinations this year. Europe remains more interesting."