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Italian fresh produce sector envisages major challenges ahead

Italian fresh produce sector envisages major challenges ahead

At the annual Fruitimprese assembly, which took place on October 22nd in Rome behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, president, Marco Salvi, stressed the important role played by our operators, working hard since the very beginning of the crisis to guarantee ongoing supplies of fresh products as well as the income of their employees. Salvi also called for more government financial and legal assistance for the sector. Salvi stated that government provisions had not managed to solve the labour crisis in the summer. Instead, operators were required to recruit personnel from other sectors and pay training costs. Many of these workers have subsequently quit their jobs, “leaving employers with the same problem and higher costs.” 

As for the future, plastic packaging is a particular issue,  as a new plastic tax will exceed €1/kg. “We are currently working with the CONAI and the Customs Agency to guarantee rebates to those who export, but we cannot deny that these changes will lead to a radical reorganisation of the packaging sector. The coordination of the actors involved is essential to identify an alternative material and a type of packaging agreed upon on a national and international level, avoiding multiple alternative solutions that would lead to higher costs and uncertainty for consumers.”

As for the implementation of the EU’s sustainability strategy, Salvi called for operators to be “equipped with the crop protection tools essential for a sector subjected to increasing weather instability and invasions of alien species. A striking example of this is the pear brown rot, which is bringing back problems that we thought had been solved 40 years ago.”

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Italy boosts its links with China

Freshfel Europe and CIQA workshop in Beijing with the participation of CSO ITALY, ASSOMELA, ORANFRIZER and FRUITIMPRESE for a common project for the development of trade relations between Italy and China

Excellent results for the workshop organized by Freshfel Europe and the China Entry & Exit Inspection and Quarantine Association (CIQA) in Beijing, aiming to create a shared knowledge base for future trade relations, to understand respective production systems, and above all to and explore the four basic pillars for trade between the two countries—market access, phytosanitary policies and requirements, food safety policies and requirements, and specific procedures for various products.

The format of the workshop, particularly effective and highly appreciated, focused on all the major themes regarding trade between Europe and China, with bilateral presentations followed by discussions, and with contributions from Woo Huao, director of the AQSIQ Biosecurity Division, Jerome Lepeintre, head of the Agricultural Section of the EU Delegation to China, and Ms Li Li, director of the Economic Crop Division of the Chinese Agricultural Ministry.

Italy presented an overview of the current situation for kiwifruit, apples, pears and citrus fruits as part of the Business Case session, dedicated to businesses and problems in trade relations.

“We had the opportunity,” declared Simona Rubbi, CSO ITALY’s officer for the opening of new markets, “to present a clear and analytical outline of the situation for exports of Italian produce to China, with the excellent performance of kiwifruit in general and the growth in particular of yellow kiwifruit, and the great potential for the development of the market for pears, apples and citrus fruits.”

“With regard to citrus fruits,” said Salvo Laudani, Oranfrizer’s Marketing Manager and president of Fruitimprese Sicilia, “we clearly described the current situation, asking for the agreement between China and Italy signed in January 2016 to be applied to the campaign now in progress, and for the agreement to be extended to include the possibility in future of transporting citrus fruits not only by sea but also by air or rail. This opening is vital to guarantee the arrival of products of excellent quality, and I’m convinced that the Beijing workshop offered us a great opportunity in this area.”

In the sector of apples and pears, it was highlighted that in March 2015, the Italian ministry sent an official communication to the Chinese authorities requesting the official opening of export negotiations, but that no reply has yet been received.

“We took the occasion of the workshop,” said Giulia Montanaro of Assomela, “to stress the desirability of starting joint negotiations for both apples and pears with the greatest urgency.”

The Italian delegation highly appreciated the presence and concrete support offered by First Secretary Enrico Berti and Raffaella Danielato of the Economic and Trade Department of the Italian Embassy in Beijing, and also of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies.

In addition, the representatives of the six countries participating in the mission clearly reiterated the need for EU-led negotiations, despite China maintaining once again that discussions must be pursued independently by each EU member state.

In overall terms, the Freshfel Europe workshop achieved its aims, highlighting the opportunities offered by an immense market, but above all the need to adopt an approach of constant discussion and exchange with the Chinese authorities to ensure an even fuller understanding of the production methods, plant defence techniques and transport and logistics systems of the Italian fruit and vegetable sector.


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World demand grows for Italian seedless grapes

Many of the Italian growers’ new plantings are of the seedless variety but Italian seeded grapes continue to be synonymous with quality and tradition.

Seedless varieties are the new frontier for Italian table grapes, as the steadily increasing demand from consumers and the closure of some markets point in that direction even though traditional varieties maintain their high level of quality.

This year Italian grapes are showing good quality, the yield per hectare has been 25% lower than forecast, acidity is low and degrees Brix high, so it is fair to say that the objectives are being met. Where the growth lies, however, is above all in seedless grapes, and in fact all the new plantings are moving in that direction.

The main problems would seem to be on the export side, where several doors have recently closed.

Fruitimprese vice-chairman Giacomo Suglia said the closing of the Russian market was a real disaster for the Italian sector. “A short while ago, Canada also forbade imports of Italian table grapes, and in the Far East too, a number of markets are still closed,” he said.

However, the world trend is showing clear growth in the demand for Italian seedless grapes and Italian growers are readying themselves for the future.