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Peach, Prunus persica / Rosaceae
The peach is original from China; it was taken to the West through commercial routes.

It is one of the most important cultures in the world, with a global production around 10 thousand tons.

The world production centres around the Mediterranean area, being Italy and Spain the main exporting countries.

The peach tree (Prunus persica) is original from China, where references to the culture go 3000 years back. Later on, it was introduced in Persia by the commercial routes through the mountains, to an extent that it was known as Persica fruit, from where its scientifical name persica was taken. That is why many people wrongly think hat peaches come from Persia. The peaches arrived at Greece towards year 330 B.C. and during the Middle Ages they spreaded all around Europe. As far as the spreading of this culture, we can state that in America the Portuguese introduced the peach in the east coast of South America, the Spaniards do so in Mexico and Florida, the French in Luisiana and the English settlers in Virginia and Massachusetts.

The peach and nectarine culture is one of the most technified among the fruit trees and it is very important in the agrarian economy of many countries.

Since the beginnings of the 80’s until today, the world production of peaches and nectarines has increased enormously and according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) it increased from average 9,323 thousand tons in the period between 1989-1991, to 11,065 thousand tons in 1998.

The world production centres in the Mediterranean area, mainly in Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Turkey. Europe produces almost half of the world production, 4,500 thousand tons. The main producers of the European Union are Spain and Italy. North America produces around 1,600 thousand tons. Certain countries in South America, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, have a revealing productive capacity given their great production growth, although they are still far from the Mediterranean countries.

Spain is the third producer at European level with 1 million tons, 20% of the production destined to the industry, 70% to consumption in fresh and only 10% to export. The present tendency is to increase the soft and the nectarine varieties. The main producing areas are Valle del Ebro, Lérida and Murcia.

The world production is shown in this table:

Country
Production (thousand tons) %
 19981999 
Africa8048327
Asia4,6014,61038
Europe3,5464,18335
North America1,4551,48412
Oceania1041071
South America7748257
TOTAL11,28412,041100


(Including nectarines)
Source: Fresh Produce Desk Book (2001).

The increase of production is stated in all the countries between year 1998 and 1999, being of special significance the increase in South America, although the greater production share is still Asia and Europe.

The 10 main producing countries and their productive evolution in the last years, both for peaches and nectarines, are shown in the following table:

Country
Production (thousand tons)   
 1989-91199619971998
China1,2322,7762,9962,996
Italy1,5911,7541,1581,429
The United States1,3031,1791,4301,300
Spain708870925988
Greece760876588480
France475464469470
Turkey339360355400
Chile191280270285
Argentina237281290280
South Africa145173251240


Source: FAO production Yearbook 1998

In Spain the surface cultivated has increased during the last years, reaching a maximum of 78,600 hectares in 1989. From this year onwards, the surface diminished up to 71,300 hectares in 1997. Nevertheless, this decrease did not mean a reduction in the production, but rather the opposite, it increased considerably due to the renewal of the plantations, the increment of the irrigated surface and the improvement of culture techniques. All this has lead Spain to be one of the main exporters of peaches in the world, as appreciated in the following table.

The 10 main exporters of peaches are:

Country
Exports 
 Thousand tons 1998Thousand U.S. $ 1998
Italy330,245349,930
Spain198,196260,113
The United States83,65980,593
France70,403112,053
Chile68,30748,083
Greece47,07936,191
Netherlands12,63016,784
Germany784010,003
South Africa5,9006,747
Argentina4,2574,211


Source: FAO Trade Yearbook, 1998

The enormous difference of tons exported by Italy and Spain with respect to the rest of countries can be appreciated in the table. They both export two times the total exported by the 6 remaining countries.

Europe is the first importer of peaches, 683,529 thousand tons.
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