Interest in the cultivation of almonds continues to grow in Spain due to the global demand for this product, and proof of this is that the acreage planted in Extremadura has doubled over the past five years, reaching 5,160 hectares. And growth continues.The production has increased by 14% from January to March of this year and already amounts to 2,850 tons, according to the first report of 2017 published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment.However, this figure will increase as the plantations set up in recent years start to become fully operational.
Almond trees take two years to bear fruit and, at first, they do so with a small production.At the end of 2016, the acreage in Extremadura stood at 5,160 hectares, concentrated mostly in the province of Badajoz (4,481 hectares), but with only 3,047 in production.Of these, 2,446 hectares were rainfed and 601 irrigated, with the latter being the most common in new plantations, as the yield is much higher, according to Antonio Pérez, general director of Bioterra, the only Extremadura-based company devoted to the sector, which exports to 23 countries.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the average yield of irrigated plantations was 1,987 kilos per hectare in 2016, while rainfed ones yielded 545 kilos.Pérez speaks of "interest" in the cultivation of almonds, but not of a "boom", although he believes that there has been a "spectacular development in recent years, especially in Extremadura, where there was not much tradition in the sector."Firstly as Productores de Almendra SAT, and since 2012, as Bioterra SL, based in Corte de Peleas, Badajoz, they control the production, process and market the almonds of 600 producers from 45 municipalities in Extremadura.
This company controls 3,000 hectares, not all in production yet, and plans to reach a production of 5,000 tons in the coming years.In recent times, the Borges and Delaviuda groups have landed in Extremadura to launch new plantations.But despite the rising interest in recent years, not everything is looking good, as Pérez has warned that Spain has been losing market share at global level at too quick a pace.To reverse this situation, in his opinion, "we must bet on quality varieties and do good marketing work, because Spanish almonds are better than those from California," he asserted.
In this sense, he pointed out that Bioterra, with a production that is one hundred percent organic, is investing a lot in branding, in entering new markets and developing new products.It already has 45 products, the last one being almond oil.Spain has 57 almond varieties, which allows for the production of different sizes and the catering to different tastes, but this also complicates the marketing, according to Pérez, given that competitors have only five or six, which makes things clearer to the consumer.
At Bioterra's testing fields, they are working with ten new varieties that are autofertile and of late maturation (the bloom is delayed to March) in order to avoid the risk of frost and thereby protect the harvest.Depending on how they behave, they will advise producers what variety is best for rainfed or irrigated production, taking also the altitude of the land into account, in order to obtain the highest yields.It will also be guaranteed for one hundred percent of the production to be sweet, which is another problem that Spain has in the market, according to Pérez