Small fruits remain the champions of national horticultural exports, with sales abroad tripling since 2015. The Netherlands, Germany and Spain are the main destination markets.
Exports of small national fruits – raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries – between January and December 2020, increased by 5.5% in value compared to the previous year, in accordance with the most recent figures published by the National Statistics Institute (INE) on international trade.
Sales abroad in this sector reached 247 million euros last year (compared to 234 million in 2019), which shows the sector's resilience in a very troubled economic period and marked by the consequences of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
It should be noted that in a year in which national exports fell above 10%, the agri-food sector, in general, and the small fruit sector, in particular, are the exception in this scenario of deep retraction.
Small fruits thus remain the champions of national agricultural exports, with products from the fruit and vegetable sector being the most sold abroad. Since 2015, sales abroad have practically tripled.
Luís Pinheiro, chairman of the Board of Directors of Lusomorango, the largest national fruit and vegetable producer organization, in turnover, and dedicated to the production and marketing of small fruits, especially from the Southwest Alentejo region, says:
"In the previous economic crisis, the small fruit sector had already demonstrated its importance as a pillar of the national agricultural sector, which was one of the main responsible for the growth of national exports and, in this sense, the engine of the economic recovery".
The small fruits "show a very strong resilience again" considers Luís Pinheiro, in a context of crisis, as what has been experienced for a year now.
"Naturally, we were also affected by the effects of the pandemic, especially with the increase in production and logistics costs, which are being borne by producers, but these figures prove that agricultural production of quality products, combined with modern, advanced and environmentally sustainable precision farming techniques have a future.
Finally, Pinheiro says that small fruits have a fundamental role to play in the economic recovery that "will be crucial in the next decade."
A culture highly adapted to Portugal and in constant modernization
Small national fruits, due to their organoleptic characteristics, are especially appreciated in the most demanding European markets, especially in Central and Northern Europe. In 2020, more than half of the exports of these fruits went to two markets: the Dutch (32%), which represented 80 million euros; and the German (20%), which weighed 49 million euros. The podium of the biggest customers is complete with Spain (17%), which bought 43 million euros of small fruits from Portugal. The United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Sweden are other important markets for the national chain.
“We know that the worst may not be over yet, but this sector's performance, given the increased difficulties experienced over the last year in trade between economies in constant confinement and closure of economic activity, demonstrates well the positive perception of small Portuguese fruits abroad."
Quality, flavor and freshness are "characteristics recognized by consumers, in addition to their nutritional and vitamin benefits, which reinforces what we already know: this culture is highly adapted to the country's edaphoclimatic conditions, strongly marked by the Atlantic influence, so it must be cherished and recognized as vital for the agricultural sector and for the national economy ”, says Luís Pinheiro.
Currently, Lusomorango has 41 associates and has a turnover of more than 65 million euros, exporting more than 95% of its production.