Increased fruit availability and new grading capacity set sector up for strong season

Spanish Picota cherry growers are looking forward to a positive and well-balanced season as the sector bounces back from devastating rainfall last year. Thanks to a combination of greater fruit availability and grading capacity, the sector anticipates an export volume of between 2,000 and 2,300 tonnes this year.

Picota aerial

Unseasonal heavy rain last June resulted in half of the Valle del Jerte crop being lost, making it a year to forget for growers. However, there are high hopes for a much-improved season in 2024, with a high-quality crop expected to be available for export.

Picota cherry growers’ association Agrupación de Cooperativas Valle Del Jerte is anticipating a moderate campaign in terms of volume, with trees showing a balanced fruit load. “So far, everything is pointing in the right direction for very good quality,” said the group’s managing director Monica Tierno Diaz. “The balanced fruit load should bring improvements in quality and size, as the tree can better nourish the fruit. Compared to previous years, where drought was a threat to many crops, this year we have had a pretty wet winter and spring, with more cold hours in winter, which is good for stimulating fruit production.”

Aside from the weather, there has been more positive news with the cooperative further boosting the quality and consistency of its final product with the acquisition of a new 14-line optical grader that incorporates artificial intelligence technology.

An accompanying promotional campaign is set to launch in the UK alongside the first shipments of Picotas in mid-June until the end of July. Retail activity includes branded shroud units in Morrisons stores, as well as sampling as part of the Tesco summer retail roadshow at 40 stores across the UK. Consumer PR will centre on three new summer recipes developed by Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy, while social media activity is set to include ‘Pick a Picota week’, which features competitions and influencer recipes.

If May’s warm and sunny UK weather continues over the coming months, it should provide a further boost for sales of Picotas. “Picotas are unique because they are naturally stalkless, meaning when picked from the trees, they separate from the stem and are naturally sealed, which minimises their risk of dehydration,” said Diaz.

“This translates into a better and longer shelf life. Their rather small size also makes them the perfect healthy snack for the summer. We can’t wait to make them available for our loyal UK consumers.”