Southern town of Benissanet sees 3,000 kiwis planted in pilot project
Experiment looks to new fruit as alternative to peaches and nectarines affected by plum pox virus
There will soon be 3,000 kiwis trees planted in the southern town of Benissanet, between Tarragona and Tortosa, in a pilot project. The goal is to find an alternative to peaches and nectarines that are usually affected by the plum pox virus.
The experiment, set up by the Catalan Climate Action ministry and the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA), will be undertaken in three different fields.
Around three hectares and €600,000 will serve to see the viability of the project for the upcoming years.
The first kiwis will be harvested in two years, Autumn 2024, but the key is to explore the profitability of the harvest. For the moment, the vast majority of plants are the ‘Hayward’ variety, one of the most popular ones. However, 15% of the fields will be used for other types of kiwis to make the project more "dynamic."
One of the main problems that kiwi production faces is the amount of shadow and water supply infrastructure it requires, pushing the average price to €50,000 per hectare.
Farmers had never thought before the plum pox virus of diversifying their agricultural plantations.
The future of the project "will depend on the earnings per hectare, like everything else," Joan Miró, from the Benisuit Fruits company said. "If the farmer’s product price is good, he will be able to assume the cost. If not, it will not be possible as the cost of preparing everything is very expensive," he added.
"We will try, and so far it looks like research believes it is possible. We will see in some years," he concluded.
The Ribera d’Ebre county is not only focused on peaches and nectarines but mainly on almonds with 9,241 hectares, vineyards with 6,036 hectares, olives (5,949 hectares), and hazelnut (444 hectares).
Regarding sweet fruit, cherries lead the way with 226 hectares, followed by peaches with 42 hectares.
Because of the plum pox virus affecting peaches and nectarines, the Catalan ministry had proposed this scheme. Since 2008, the virus has forced farmers to pluck 370 hectares of peach trees, around 500 per hectare.
Kiwis in Catalonia
In 2021, there were 80 hectares of kiwi trees, 19 more than in 2020. The overall kiwi production now sits at 1,903 tonnes.
In Catalonia alone, the average consumption is 3.11 kilograms of kiwi per person each year. With an average price of €3.7 per kilo, in total, the kiwi industry sold €79,766 in 2021.