New reds filling a niche Continuing demand for seedless grape has led to a massive investment programme by Paloma, one of the best known producer/exporter groups in the Murcia region of Spain. It is concentrating on specially selected red varieties, protecting its developing niche market between June and December through buying the plant rights from Californian breeders. Two years ago more than 350 hectares were planted under cover near Mazarron and are now coming into peak commercial bearing. Initial response from multiples such as Sainsbury and Tesco has been very favourable according to president Jose Hernandez, who says they have been impressed with the high sugar content and tender skin. Paloma already supplies UK multiples with a wide range of traditional Spanish crops including cherry tomatoes, stone fruit, Galia melons and pomegranates, with total sales last season of £55m. But Hernandez believes red seedless grape will add a new dimension to its produce export list. "Spain already grows white seedless grape, but the potential for red is totally underdeveloped," he said. "We will have the market virtually to ourselves as there are no other suppliers at this time of year. "Spain grows seeded types such as Napoleon but the market has changed. Our new production is geared totally towards the UK market." Paloma has chosen four new varieties which in some cases are still unnamed but two are Crimson Seedless with 240 tonnes shipped last season and 60 tonnes of newly christened Fantasy. The others will remain a secret until the season starts in three months' time. A sevenfold crop increase is forecast from the present vineyards as they mature. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}