Local varieties seek a niche market Spain looks to speciality types While Spanish salad tomato varieties are expected to remain the lynchpin of a winter based industry exporting to European markets, there is a noticeable move towards developing more speciality types. Grower/exporter Duran based in Murcia is switching 15% of its 300 hectare nurseries to cherry, plum, mini plum and baby sweetheart varieties, and also considering the options for a selection of fruit presented on the vine. Production is more expensive but has been compensated for by better yields possible through building 16ft high houses and growing hydroponically with optimum conditions achieved through computerised controls. Trials have shown up to 40kg/sq m are possible, double that achieved by traditional methods. Like many companies, Durand traces its history back 25 years ago when as an exporter based in Valencia it bought fruit from the newly established production areas such as Mazarron and Aguillas. It is also coming up with new ideas to export some of Spain's local varieties. One such possibility, said technologist Francisco Rodriguez Nogueron, is by using a semi permeable film that will reduce respiration in prepacks and extend shelf life, because while claimed as being better flavoured, the fruit nevertheless ripens more quickly. Ultimately this could open up potential for some of Spain's local varieties such as the bumpy heart shaped Muchamiel strains also available in the summer. "They taste delicious while still green and also ripen quickly," he said. "It will take time to get the message across to the consumer but some UK supermarkets have been carrying out test marketing." {{FRESH PRODUCE }}