The Spanish region of Andalusia has become the great tropical orchard of Europe, and in December, the subtropical fruit supply for the continent, led by mangoes and avocados, is complemented with other innovations. Andalusian producers are moving forward not only in terms of product diversification, but also in sustainability.
“In a few days we will start with the harvest of our organic papayas and passion fruit,” says Pepe Montiel, of the Almeria-based company Almanzora Tropical. “This year’s production will amount to between 100,000 and 150,000 kilos of papaya and 5,000-6,000 kilos of passion fruit, which we will mainly ship to the European market.”
Almanzora Tropical is specialized in the organic cultivation of papayas, pitahaya and passion fruit, three fruits that have set a precedent in Cuevas de Almanzora. “After retiring, I decided to venture into tropical fruit production. To do this, I spent months collecting information from both the Cajamar experimental farm and the CSIC La Mayora Institute regarding the different tropical crops that could be produced here, as well as about growing conditions, markets, diseases, agronomic management, etc. You can’t undertake any project and be successful without first having the right information, so after carrying out a study with the data that was available, I picked the three fruits I wanted to work with,” says Pepe.
“Here, in Cuevas de Almanzora, there were no tropicals and I was the first to start with them. In 2018, we carried out a first test with 80 papaya plants, 20 passion fruit plants and as many pitahaya plants. We obtained good results the following year and since then we have been increasing the plantings until we achieved the current production levels.”
“All three crops are doing very well and the climate in this area allows us to obtain very good quality fruit,” says Pepe. “Passion fruit is grown outdoors, pitahaya is grown under netting and papayas are grown under plastic, as it needs more temperature control. Pitahaya requires manual pollination, because here there are no bats to pollinate the flowers, which open at night, so we pollinate the flowers one by one every day at dawn during the flowering period. Passion fruit pollination is done by bees.
“We grow 100% organic fruit. We have the organic certification for our papayas and pitahayas and next year we will also have one for our passion fruit. This is a different path. Those who work in organic production are specialists, both at the production level and at the marketing level.”
“For this reason, we are doing very little in the domestic market for now, and our production is being allocated for export to Europe, where there are very good distribution channels for organic products,” says Pepe Montiel. “In fact, we want to focus on exporting to Germany, France and the Netherlands, where organic food consumption reaches very good levels, although we also want to start working with the catering channel and with gourmet stores in Spain.”
A new alternative and a new hope
The pitahaya season, during which Almanzora Tropical has produced 10,000 kilos of the three red-skinned varieties it grows, runs from July to November, right before the start of the papaya and passion fruit campaign in December. These crops not only represent an alternative to Almeria’s traditional products, which have been affected by price and profitability crises in recent years. They also bring hope to the youngest in a sector in which, unfortunately, the lack of generational replacement is a cause for concern.
Pepe and Javier.
“This year, my grandson Javier, who was studying in Oxford, decided to come to work with me. He is working and learning alongside the manager and is taking control of the business. I am very happy with his decision and the wonderful goal he has set for himself, and I will support him in everything he needs.”
“In fact, in Almeria, Murcia and even in Valencia there are more and more producers planting papaya, passion fruit and pitahaya. It would be a very good idea for us all to come together and create an association for the marketing of our products. Together we could become stronger and make more of an impact,” says Pepe Montiel.
For more information:
Camino de Los Ángeles s/n
04617 Cuevas de Almanzora, Almería, Spain
Tel.: +34 670 981 241
Publication date: Tue 30 Nov 2021
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