The 7th International Berry Congress of Huelva came to a close recently after two days of conferences. In the round table that opened the program on June 23, Agnieszka Wryk, from Ewa-Bis, gave a presentation with a complete outline of the market for the Polish berry sector. Statistics show that this fruit has experienced a rapid increase in consumption in Poland driven in recent times by, among other factors, the increased availability of fresh produce, as well as by improvements in the packaging of these soft fruits, the impact of COVID and the trend to consume healthier foods.
Agnieszka also gave an analysis of the main retailers in Poland - headed in the country by Biedronka, with 3,150 branches - explaining the particularities and strengths of each of them, as well as the characteristics and trends of the Polish market in terms of the quality variables expected in the fruit.
It is interesting to note that the country has a marketing window between May and September, so it depends on imports between October and April; a period that covers part of the Spanish season. Although, as Agnieszka Wryk pointed out in her presentation, Poland is not only a producer or consumer of berries, it is also in a strategic position to provide fruit supply services to the Baltic countries.
Hans-Christof Behr, deputy director of the German consulting firm AMI, brought us closer to another market of great importance for Huelva's berries: Germany, which, in fact, is the number one export destination in the EU for Spanish fruit and vegetables.
The German berry supply season picks up in May, and the volumes remain considerable until July. In the last 10 years, there has also been a tendency to expand the cultivation of strawberries in greenhouses, as this allows for a more reliable quality and prevents the production from being affected by inclement weather.
There are substantial price differences for strawberries in the German market depending on their country of origin and quality. Spain remains the most important source of the supply, as it has the advantage of offering stable volumes over time. The list of other suppliers includes Greece (in the low price segment) and the Netherlands, which, for its part, supplies very high quality fruit from greenhouses, with high prices. In fact, in a storecheck carried out in week 18 of this year at different German chains, it was possible to purchase Spanish strawberries for 4.99 Euro, Greek strawberries in the same format for 1.79 Euro and Dutch ones for 7.98 Euro.
The domestic fruit, 20% of which was purchased in 2021 directly from producers, also reaches high prices. "And not because of its taste," said Hans, "as the taste of strawberries in Spain has improved tremendously, but the German consumer does not like a crunchy strawberry. The strawberry is a soft fruit, and the German consumer appreciates it being soft."
Regarding the rest of berries, according to AMI data, in 2021 Spain remained the largest supplier of blueberries to the German market, followed by Peru, Morocco, Poland and Chile. However, when it comes to raspberries, Morocco has positioned itself as the main supply origin for Germany, ahead of Spain and Portugal.
The technical conferences of Agrofresas and Bayer, which delved into the integrated management of nematodes in strawberries, were commented in the gardens, where, as in the previous day of the event, breaks were taken and used to meet, talk and learn about the products displayed at the stands, including packaging, services and machinery, technology and last generation agricultural software, innovation in breeding, certifications or the wide range of plant nutrition options for berry cultivation, which included possibly the most unique solution: :o Frass, the first registered fertilizer in Europe that is produced by insects.
The future was the focus in the final stretch of the program
Back in the Auditorium, Pedro L. Prieto Hontoria, CEO of Befoodlab, unveiled the most surprising developments (many of whom could be described as futuristic) in the field of R&D&I based, which showcased the commitment to innovation through foodtech: Balsamic raspberry, which is dispensed with a "pencil sharpener", strawberry pulp in portions, or customizable vitamin jelly beans, and even natural juice dispensing machines that manufacture their own cups with a 3D printer fed with a polymer made from the waste of the fruit they squeeze.
"We don't just feed stomachs, we feed souls and minds," said Pedro, stressing that there are different kinds of consumers who demand not only healthy food, but also experiences. "Are you on time for the foodture?" asked Pedro. "When it comes to food, you have to make people feel."
The director of the Prenauta Foundation, Ruth Tenorio Díaz-Jargüín, highlighted the importance for people's health of education and conscious eating from childhood. Under the title "Children eat the future" and with the slogan "There is nothing healthier than educating", Ruth gave a presentation about the work that the Foundation is carrying out with this project, and not only in Spain, as it has also been involved with some pilot initiatives in Chile and Panama with the help of chefs and national foundations. The goal is to promote healthy eating among children -the adult consumers of tomorrow-, teaching them gastronomic culture; that is, teaching them to make decisions that will have an impact on their health throughout their lives.
The event's conference program was closed with the working table "ODS: The social factor in the berry sector", which served to outline the important work carried out by all the NGO's and organizations that are striving to achieve the integration of the many seasonal workers who move to Huelva each season, contributing with their work to the success of this industry.
The participants were Natalia Cost, coordinator of the Red Cross project for the care of women hired at origin; Borja Ferrera, director of the Responsibility, Ethics, Labor and Social Plan (Prelsi) of Interfresa, and Javier Pérez, regional director for Andalusia and Ceuta of the Cepaim Foundation, who managed to win over everyone who had the great opportunity to attend this talk. As highlighted by the manager of Freshuelva, Rafael Domínguez, the work aims to ensure the integration and respect for the cultural diversity in the province. It provides great support to all the workers who are making it possible for Huelva's berry sector to have a future.
Rafael Domínguez closed the Congress expressing his gratitude for "the support of all the people and institutions" that have allowed the Congress to become a reality "as the event has once proven to be useful for the sector and for the province. We are all working together already to make the eighth edition a reality," he said.