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Francescon boosts off-season production in Senegal

Francescon’s off-season began at the end of February with the arrival of cantaloupe melons from Senegal, where it directly farms 120 ha, equating to 4,000 tons of product.

While the melon season is still a long way off in the Northern Hemisphere, in other parts of the world it is already in full swing due to more favourable climate conditions, allowing the Italian market to be supplied even during the off season.

Margherita Avigni, head of exports for the producer organisation Francescon, said its off-season began at the end of February with the arrival of cantaloupe melons from Senegal, where it directly farms 120 ha, equating to 4,000 tons of product.

“We are now in our fourth year of marketing Senegalese product in Italy and Europe: 80% goes to Italian retailers and the remainder to other countries in Europe. You could even say that we are beginning to reap the first fruits of our labour, particularly thanks to a higher price than the average for other imported melons, which is a sign that there are chains that are prepared to pay something more for a quality product,” Avigni said.

Francescon guarantees this quality using the know-how it has amassed in its over 30 years of experience of bi-weekly transportation, by sea for the most part but also by air. “After two years of sales, the Senegalese product, which conforms to the technical profile and is managed by our own team, has already permitted significant increases in yield per hectare. We have also made use of our know-how to increase the local workforce, thus optimising our working method with regards to Fair Trade practice.”

And it hasn’t taken long for this labour to bear fruit: “Our team’s experience has allowed us to anticipate the calendar, meaning we can supply melons to our clients continuously from the end of February until well into October,” Avigni said.

Founded in 1968 in Rodigo, Mantua, Francescon is Italy’s largest melon producer organisation, the undisputed national leader, and yet it is still able to keep its management structure strictly within the family. Francescon’s farms are mostly located in and around Mantua, but also in Agrigento, Sicily, and for the past three years in Senegal too, from where it sources its melons for the winter season.

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Call for more EU help for fruit & veg sector grower organisations

The EU must do more to help fruit and vegetable farmers joining forces in so-called producer organisations to increase their competitiveness and bargaining power in the food supply chain, says the draft non-legislative resolution adopted by the Agriculture committee on Tuesday.

The EU must do more to help fruit and vegetable farmers joining forces in so-called producer organisations to increase their competitiveness and bargaining power in the food supply chain, the Euroepan Parliament’s Agriculture committee said in a draft non-legislative resolution adopted on Tuesday.

The resolution was in responce to the European Commission’s assessment of the situation in the EU’s fruit and vegetable sector since its 2007 reform.The MEPs also called on the Commission to tackle unfair trading practices and further improve the EU’s fruit and vegetable regime.

“Producer organisations must continue to be the cornerstone of the EU’s agricultural policy. The report that we adopted today stands for the encouragement of growers to organize themselves in an organisation which can enhance their bargaining power, better position them in the food chain and thus improve their incomes”, said Nuno Melo (EPP, PT), Parliament’s rapporteur.

The 2007 reform aimed to strengthen the position of fruit and vegetables farmers in the food supply chain and some progress has been achieved since then but the degree of organisation among producers remains low on average and considerably below the EU average in certain Member States, the MEPs said.

They also stressed the need for more support to producer organisations to provide stronger incentives to merge existing organisations or create new ones.

Farmers’ organisations that decide to take young members should be eligible for special benefits, the MEPs also said, noting currently only 7.5% of EU farmers are under 35 years of age but “well-functioning producer organisations could reverse this unsustainable trend.”

Read more here.

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Commission admits too many fruit and vegetable producers not getting EU aid

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The European Union fruit and vegetable regime needs to be reviewed to ensure support for producer organisations, the European Commission has said in a report to the European Parliament and Council.

This is needed in order to achieve in all Member States the objectives of the EU farm policies set under the 2007 and 2020 reforms.

Since the 1996 reform, producer organisations (POs) have been the cornerstone of the EU regime for the fruit and vegetables (F&V) sector.

“The EU average of degree of European production within Producers’ Organisations has slightly improved +1,2% and reached 48,4%, but it is still far below the objectives established in 2007 of more than 70%.

Only a limited number of F&V producers are members of a PO. “Thus, most producers are excluded from the direct benefits of the EU regime for the F&V sector,” the Commission said in its report.”

“Moreover, despite progress made at the national level, in some Member States there are still significant regional imbalances in the degree of organisation of F&V producers. An example of that is Italy, where the relatively high national organisation rate (about 47%) is the result of the high organisation rate of some northern regions and the low organisation of several other regions.”

Later in the report, the commission said the “persistently low degree or lack of organisation in some MSs” is a crucial issue needing careful analysis with a view to identifying, where appropriate, additional measures to encourage not only a further rise in the degree of organisation of producers in the whole EU but also a decrease of the imbalance of F&V producers’ organisation within the EU.

“A low degree or lack of organisation also means that most F&V producers do not belong to a PO, so they do not directly benefit from specific EU aid for the sector,” it said.

“Those producers, frequently the smallest, cannot even benefit from the services that POs could provide, have very weak bargaining power within the supply chain and are more exposed to the risks linked to market globalisation and climate change.”

Increasing the rate of organisation of the F&V sector remains crucial especially in Member States where the organisation is still very low. In this respect, there is also the need to explore measures to stimulate forms of cooperation to help PO’s and non-organised producers to better deal with those challenges.

To address such shortcomings, the current EU F&V regime needs to be reviewed and the Commission could build upon the results of the report and upcoming debate to later present legislative proposals “to revise the Union aid scheme for the fruit and vegetables sector.”

Read the report here.

Follow progress here.