“In the first year (2020) there was a very large demand, which pushed prices up and all operators in the industry benefited. In this campaign, demand is not as accentuated, but production was higher and we cannot complain,” the president of the Agricultural Cooperative of Citrus Growers of the Algarve (Cacial) told Lusa.
For José Oliveira, the fact that the sector has not been affected by the pandemic like other sectors, would make it “almost a crime to complain about anything” in relation to the activity in these two years of the pandemic. The professionalisation of producers and operators is the main reason for the improved “health” of the sector, which translates into increased profitability for all.
“We had practically an oasis in the economic difficulties that almost all sectors of the economy went through. These have been two years of rest in terms of commercialisation,” he added.
According to the leader, the notion that vitamin C “helps in the fight against Covid” meant that prices accompanied demand” in the first year of the pandemic.
In terms of outbreaks among farm workers he said he was “not aware of any serious problems” and said that producers were working with health authorities to “implement vaccination plans that cover foreign workers in the region.”
The classification as a protected geographical indication (PGI), the focus on branding and exporting the Algarve’s oranges is a “recognition of its quality” which translates into “much demand” from abroad, and the fact that “20 percent of production is exported” as an alternative to the internal market.
Frusoal, the organisation of citrus producers in Portugal, also confirmed to Lusa the “positive phase” of the good 2020 campaign, with an “increase in prices”, but warned that 2021 “is not working in the same way”.
According to the managing partner of Frusoal, Pedro Madeira, this year consumption and prices are “substantially lower” than in 2020, but his concern centres on the “decrease in fruit consumption in general terms”, which may represent “some fear of tomorrow” by consumers.
The low production of the varieties that will begin marketing in a few weeks, gives some hope to operators of being able to experience “tranquility throughout the campaign,” but the concern “with what may lie ahead” remains, he said.
Both José Oliveira and Pedro Madeira pointed to the need to “increase the production area”, as “demand is greater than supply” and Portugal needs to import citrus fruits.
In the long term, the concern is centred on the need to find solutions to the “scarcity of water” essential for fruit production, but also for the region’s main economic activity, tourism.
Both operators consider the funds indicated in the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PPR) to resolve the Algarve’s water deficit to be “scarce”. They applaud the construction of the pipeline that will bring water from the Guadiana River, but they are united in arguing for the need to build another dam to guarantee the region’s water supply and “resilience”.