Frutercoop drives protea cultivation in the Azores
Protea plants have been known for some decades in the Azores Islands. The most popular is Banksia integrifolia, not planted speci cally as an ornamental, but as hedges to protect banana orchards against the strong winds.
Thee first plantations for production of cut f owers for export were established in the 1990’s. This happened on several islands of the archipelago, with more emphasis on the islands of Terceira and São Miguel. Since then the evolution of this cultivation has been di erent for each island. It is currently on Terceira Island that the production is more signi cant. However, on the island of Faial it is still emerging and on São Miguel it has been in decline.
On Terceira Island Fruter/Frutercoop has driven protea cultivation. It was in 1997 that some of its members established the first fields of protea plants, initiating export in 2000. Since this date that production has been growing, with current production of about 1 million stems exported mainly to the Dutch market during the trading period from October to April. With new plantations established in the
Frutercoop the expected production could reach 2 million stems by 2016 and 3 million stems by 2018. Product quality has been the major area in which Frutercoop has invested in recent years and it has been quality improvement and market recognition that have driven the growth of this company.
What are Fruter and Frutercoop?
Fruter is an association that provides support to its members who sell their production through the cooperative Frutercoop. e main goal of Fruter is to promote and disseminate the products of its members, as well as providing technical support services and participation in technical-scientic research with universities, government entities, foundations and companies linked to this activity.
Frutercoop is divided into several areas of agricultural production, of which fruits, vegetables, fowers and honey are the most important. It has 114 members of which 16 belong to the Flower Growers Sec-tion representing all production of protea flowers in Terceira Island. Production is currently over 30 hectares, predominantly cut flowers of Leucospermum, Protea, Telopea and Leucadendron.
Flowers are delivered to Frutercoop by its members, being harvested, classified per length and placed in buckets on the farms. Frutercoop manages the accumulation, standardization, quality control, packaging, logistics and export processes. Flowers are harvested as close as possible to export to maintain freshness during transport and distribution, which implies that there is a large concentration of flowers to pack in the days immediately prior to export. After receipt and quality control of the flowers, these are individually hand packed in cartons
with a capacity of 0,06 m3. Enough workers are required to pack the flowers quickly and eciently and this requires space and storage capacity under controlled temperature, mainly for transport by sea. Initially this work was all done in the existing horticultural facilities established since the founding of Frutercoop, but these soon proved to be too small and inadequate compared to the growth of the flower production and market requirements. Some adjustments were made during the last six years to pack the flowers but there was no space to grow. Out of this limitation was born an old dream of one day building new facilities that present the opportunity for growth and improvement.
Well … that day has come!
A big step for the future of protea export in Azores
Frutercoop recently finished the construction of the new central facility for horticulture, fruits, flowers and honey, with a total investment of approximately €3 million, which includes the first infrastructure created in the Azores exclusively for packaging of flowers. Frutercoop had the support of the Regional Government of Azores and the European Community for the construction and equipment, which shows a commitment to diversication of agricultural production in the Azores.
The total area of implementation is 3,405 m2, in which the area designated for storage and packaging is 554 m2 and a common area of 961 m2 for all sectors for administrative services, training, meetings and laboratories.
This new structure is ready to receive and pack over 3 million flowers, which is the goal of Frutercoop for years to come. The new space for packing flowers, in addition to allowing growth in this activity, will give an opportunity to implement other ways to pack, greater storage capacity, as well as new packaging types. Another major advantage of the new facilities is the ability to conduct research in the laboratory investigating cold storage and transport options of the value chain. This was previously very difficult to do in the old facilities.
At a time of great economic constraint in which Portugal is living with a high rate of youth unemployment in the Azores, floriculture offers an alternative through new investment. These new growers are the foundation of dynamism, prosperity and afirmation for the future. |||
The Azores are a valued member of the International Protea Association.
Fruter Açores | Telf: (00351) 295 204 055 (Esc); (00351) 295 204 050 (Arm) | Fax: (00351) 295 204 059
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