Algarve orange producers band together to explore new export opportunities

Orange producers in the Algarve want to push the quality message and have revealed plans to promote the region’s delicious and juicy oranges in Europe.

AlgarOrange, the regional association of orange producers, was created in August 2018 and includes nine producers: Cacial, Frusoal, Frutalgoz, Frutas Lurdes Guerreiro & Filhos, Frutas Martinho, Frutas Tereso, Machorro & Filhos, Matinhos and Parafrutas.

“Algarve oranges are such an asset that we should promote them in foreign markets. After assessing the needs of the sector, we realised that this is a vital step forward” José Oliveira, president of AlgarOrange and of the board of Cacial, told Barlavento newspaper.

Although most producers already export their oranges, “individually they do not have the capacity to produce enough oranges to meet the demands of certain clients”.

“We believe that, together, we can create a greater export flow and meet the expectations of some markets such as France, Germany and Denmark,” Oliveira added.
The association has already applied for community funding through the CRESC Algarve 2020 programme in a bid to make this goal attainable.

As he explained, “we cannot compete with Spain”.

“Our orange production is a drop in the ocean compared to theirs. We cannot approach the market with the goal of competing with them in the same way. However, we will pick markets where the quality of our oranges will indeed make a difference,” he said.

If the bid for funding is approved, AlgarOrange will start by promoting the mouthwatering oranges at international fairs in Spain, Germany and Canada. But the association also wants to spread the word among tourists here by working together with local hotels and Faro Airport.

AlgarOrange is also keen to get involved with the ‘Citrinos do Algarve’ brand, a quality seal that is only attributed to oranges that meet certain standards.

In 2017 alone, the nine companies that make up the association employed 500 people and produced 110 million tons of oranges (around €90 million-worth).

“In 2018, our association represented around 30% of the Algarve’s orange production. This year, we are near 40%. Thus, we feel we have enough weight to have an active voice in everything that is related to the Citrinos do Algarve brand,” Oliveira told the paper.

Also on the table are plans to promote the consumption of oranges at Algarve schools. Cacial, one of the producers, has already offered orange juice machines to schools in Faro so that youngsters “get used to drinking fresh juice instead of soft drinks”.

2019 a difficult year
Although the association has many ambitious goals, it admits that 2019 is expected to be an “extremely difficult year” for the region’s orange production sector after three “good years in economic terms”.

“Prices have dropped brutally, consumption has fallen significantly, and the lack of rain could cause serious problems,” he admitted.

Another concern is the Mediterranean fruit fly, recognised by scientists as one of the world’s most destructive fruit pests.

The insects are a real threat to orange production and the association is seriously considering eco-friendly ways of combating them in order to avoid spraying trees with pesticides.

“We are thinking of trying a method that has been used in Madeira. It involves producing sterile males. They are released near the females and, when they mate, they are unable to reproduce which avoids the spread of the species. It will keep the fly population down.”

José Oliveira hopes that soon the Algarve region will be known for its eco-friendly pest control methods.

EN125 orange vendors
AlgarOrange also expressed its concern about the roadside orange vendors that can be found all along the Algarve’s EN125 road.

While the association says it has nothing against producers who decide to sell oranges on their doorstep, they “do oppose” the travelling merchants who ‘set up shop’ along the road displaying bags of fruit which no one knows where they came from.

Says Oliveira, the association believes that “perhaps over half of the oranges sold along the EN125 are stolen”.

But while AlgarOrange would like authorities to intervene, the association understands that the authority in question – ASAE – has its “hands full” with other matters concerning hotels and restaurants.

“I understand that the EN125 oranges are not, in any way, a priority.”

Photo by: Maria Simiris/Open Media Group