Saturday, October 1

Valdorros, the seafood mecca is in Burgos and there is no unemployment: “All of Spain has eaten our prawns”

  • Gambafresh, based in this town of 342 inhabitants and employing 300 people these days, is the largest shrimp marketer in Spain together with Pescanova

  • In Burgos, about 50% of the seafood in Spain is processed, since three other cooking companies have factories in the province

  • Here seafood from Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Honduras or Nigeria is cooked

In the industrial estate of Valdorros, a small town on the edge of the A-1 south of Burgos capital, it smells like shrimp. In the middle of the steppe, near a wooded area of ​​junipers, junipers and oaks and more than 200 kilometers from the sea, the smell of cooked seafood permeates everything. It comes from the water treatment plant of Gambafresh, the largest shellfish cooker in our country, along with that of Pescanova. Its three warehouses are abuzz with workers with the Christmas season. This is how this small town without unemployment became the seafood capital of Spain. Seafood from Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Honduras or Nigeria is cooked here.

In Valdorros, just ten minutes by car from Burgos, there is a small bar that closes on Wednesdays, a civic center, an indoor sports hall, an 18-hole golf course closed for years and a nursery for “eleven children”, the “pride” of the neighbors. “The golf course was very good. Olazabal was playing here, they said it was a very technical course,” says Pedro, who is cleaning his car in one of the empty streets of Enebral, where the houses are more like those of a big city than those of a Castilian town.

While the majority of towns in the province are losing inhabitants by forced marches, here the trend is upward. From 280 in 2009 has been increased to 342 in 2020, according to INE data.

During the week, however, it is difficult to find someone walking through the streets of this town divided into two: the old town, and the new part, El Enebral, an urbanization of blocks and chalets built in the heyday of brick on the outskirts of the location.

It is difficult to find someone because most of the neighbors are working. The unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the province, 7.18%, thanks in part to Gambafresh. It employs 250 people; to 300 at peak times.

“There is work; who does not work is because he cannot because of the low temperatures of the warehouses or because they don’t like the working conditions “, says the mayor, José Manuel Briongos Ortega (PSOE).

25 trucks

Two truckers chat amicably from the cab of their vehicles at the entrance to one of the warehouses. The hustle and bustle is constant. In the middle of Christmas it is the peak of activity. About 25 trucks leave and enter each day.

Gone is 2003, when Nacho Cuevas and his partner set up the company, with only five workers. They were not new to the business. Cuevas had started in the sector with his brother, Eusebio, who was the pioneer in the province by opening in 1988 Antarctica (the first cooker in the province), which was later bought by Pescanova. Nacho Cuevas and his partner put in half a million euros each to set up Gambafresh. Today the company is valued at 30 million euros. Year after year they continue to grow. If in 2020 they produced 12,650 tons of shellfish, mainly prawns but also prawns, last year they touched 15,000, which they distribute to the large chains, which sell them as products of their respective brands. The company had a turnover of 83.5 million in 2020 and expected to close 2021 with 100 million.

“We are in Carrefour, Dia, Lidl, Sirena, Alcampo … the success of any company is to try to differentiate itself from the others and in our case our quality-price is above that of the market; customers trust us , otherwise we would not be where we are“Cuevas says in his office, located on the top floor of the main factory.

In the room there is a large meeting table and two giant maps covering one of the sides, one from Europe and one from the world, full of colored pins that mark the production and distribution points.

“We distribute to almost all of Europe, except some countries such as Russia, Belarus …”, says the CEO of the company, who highlights France as a major importer: about 15% of the product is exported there.

“Consumption is increasing, we have opened new markets outside of Spain, which is where the greatest growth comes from. Shrimp is a fairly consolidated product, with a stable and affordable price, and it is also a healthy product that few people do not like, “he says about a business that has made Burgos the capital of seafood.

Apart from Gambafresh, the province is also home to Angulas Aguinaga, Pescafácil and Langus, ridden by Nacho Cuevas’ brother and where he worked until he set up Gambafresh. All of them have much lower volume of business. “50% of the shrimp eaten in Spain comes from Burgos”, reveals Cuevas, who assures that the relationship with the competition is “very good”.

And why here, why Burgos? “It is logistically very well located,” says the CEO as he stands up to mark points on the map of Europe. “Burgos it is in the middle of northern Spain and if you trace a radius to Cádiz, the circumference covers northern Italy, all of Spain and Portugal and almost all of France. ”

To enter the factory’s production area, you have to dress up in boots, jumpsuit, hat and disposable shoe covers and a coat to withstand the low temperatures in the warehouse. -from zero to eight degrees-. Hygiene is maximum before entering. Hands and boots must be disinfected several times.

It is 11 in the morning and several workers come from the sandwich break. The average age is 30 years. The majority of employees, all wearing a mask – always, not because of the Covid – are women and live in Burgos capital.

All activity begins and ends in the loading area, where the trucks arrive with frozen product from South America.


“The largest producing country we have is Ecuador, then Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Honduras …”, Cuevas explains about the aquaculture farms from which he buys shrimp. These are very large spaces built near the sea or estuaries, where fresh and salt water mix.

The prawns are fed for three or four months on the basis of fish meal and soybeans, until they are “harvested” and then processed, classified, frozen and they are sent in refrigerated containers on ships to Spain.

“Here we process them, we cook them on a large scale, and we sell them, most of it refrigerated. At this time we are processing more than 100 tons a day, and the next day they are in stores to consume between six and seven days“says the CEO of the company.

After unpacking the product, it is classified and both manual and automatic defrosting begins in huge piles with water at 25 degrees. Hence the prawns they are cooked at 96 degrees and they go to a conveyor belt where they will be checked at different points to remove those that have any imperfections or do not meet quality standards.

The activity these days is 100%. “We work in eight-hour shifts, and in total two and a half shifts, because we leave half a shift to clean, although it is constantly cleaning,” says Beatriz Aguado, commercial and marketing director of Gambafresh during a tour of the factory, which has an office for R&D to improve the manufacturing process.

“In truth R&D is constant because it is the worker himself many times who transmits to us cH ow could his work be improved “Aguado points out about facilities where almost everything is mechanized and digitized or in the process of being complemented.

The conveyor belt, which is shaped like a “u”, ends in the packaging area, where the product is packaged depending on which chain it is intended for.

Several people check the kilo packages that in this case will be distributed to Portuguese supermarkets Pingo Doce, which are “like the Mercadona of the neighboring country”.

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Although most of the product is raised on farms, they also produce wild shrimp, which is sold at a price of twice the standard, which usually runs between 9 and 11 euros per kilo. “We have a company in Nigeria with which we work that it has 70 boats “, Cuevas says about a product range that occupies 15% of the total amount. The commercial director of the company boasts: “In Spain everyone has eaten our shrimp at some time”. Probably without knowing it.

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