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Flower Sprout® and Kalettes® in the US & Australia

Tozer Seeds takes Kalettes®, their cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, across the pond to the US.

Tozer Seeds is the European market leader in parsnip and celery varieties and has been for decades although this year has been a little more difficult than previous ones due to overproduction of parsnips in the UK. Despite this, Tozer Seeds has seen growth in various markets this year. Celery has had a good season in many countries and there is more interest in varieties which are extremely suitable for the upright stalk market. As Robin Bartels, Sales and Marketing Manager for Tozer Seeds says, their company offers a complete portfolio and can be seen as one of the celery experts in the market and is constantly working to develop varieties with better resistance and flavour.

Breeding is the heart and soul of this company and Tozer Seeds’ breeders use both traditional breeding methods and modern molecular biology (although they do not use GM) as well as their own intuition to come up with new vegetables with an emphasis on flavour and uniqueness and the ability to thrive in the field around the world. The process usually starts with screening a wide range of existing cultivars and sometimes wild relatives for plants with desirable characteristics. Individual plants showing the desirable characteristics are selected and pollinated in subsequent generations until the required characteristics are stabilised. This process can often take up to a decade.

Their newest products are coloured kales and kalettes or flower sprouts and in this case the process has taken 15 years from start to finish. It was come across more or less by accident with no way of knowing that it would become such a trendy product because of its health benefits and would hit the market just at the right time to take off. How could any one know 15 years ago that a kale hybrid would become the hot new vegetable of 2015 in the US? This brassica mash up started as a way of lessening the bitterness that bothers brussel sprout detractors and a way of making kale more versatile. As a result this new super vegetable looks like a mini cabbage with delicate, kale-like leaves and has a sweet, nutty taste and can be roasted, sautéed, grilled, microwaved and even eaten raw.

This hybrid of kale and Brussels sprouts is being marketed in Europe under the brand name Flower Sprout® and Kalettes® in the USA and Australia due to the different perception the different markets have. Kale is the vegetable of the moment in the USA but will forever be thought of as fodder for cattle whereas sprouts have slightly better press in the UK than in the US where George Bush said that one of the perks of being president was not having to eat your Brussels. New varieties and colours are being developed in these ranges to increase hardiness and extend the maturity window of these products as this leafy vegetable has one major drawback: it is seasonal and for the moment is only available between November and March. 

Image courtesy of:

This article appeared on page 123 of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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Kiwifruit, Italy’s ambassador to the world

Kiwifruit are one of the biggest Italian fruit exports and 70% of the crop is grown for foreign markets.

No Italian fruit better embodies the role of Italy’s ambassador to the world than kiwifruit: “Kiwifruit are exported to practically every continent and the export volumes are constantly growing,” said Paolo Bruni, chairman of CSO (Centro Servizi Ortofrutticoli) of Ferrara. Italy plays a decisive part in the world kiwifruit industry. The key factors for this success are optimising volume management, excellent quality and the ability of the companies involved to become international players. The top place is occupied by yellow kiwifruit, in which Italy can boast the primacy in production and also constitutively, with the setting up of the Jingold consortium, and recently also for red kiwifruit, distributed exclusively by the new Origine Group. According to CSO data, Italy as a whole had nearly 24,450 hectares of kiwifruit orchards in production in 2015. The main growing areas are, in this order: Lazio (30%), Piedmont (19%), Emilia-Romagna (15%) and Veneto (14%), though surface areas in the South are expanding.

High quality season

The 2015/16 season will stand out for the extremely high quality of all types of kiwifruit, thanks to the optimum weather conditions this year. The total crop is higher than last year but the markets are also growing, so the greater supplies should not be a cause for concern. After the moderate volumes of 2013/14, growth is being seen in the Middle East, which is returning to similar levels to those of previous years. The decrease in North Africa compared to previous years is moderate (6%). The proportion of Italian kiwifruit earmarked for Australia is also seeing good growth.

Main destinations

EU countries are still the main destination (67%), but the proportion has fallen as exports to more distant areas such as North America (10%), the Far East (7%) and Central and South America (6%) have risen. During the last marketing season Italian kiwifruit exports reached 323,000 tons, a 2% rise on the previous year. The value of these exports exceeded €410 million overall, up by 7% on 2013/14. Almost all the main destinations showed growth (Germany +1%, France +30%, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom +12%), while the volumes shipped to Spain remained constant. Growth in North American sales was again confirmed last season, as this market took almost 32,000 tonnes. The Far East also grew by 11% to nearly 23,000 tons. South American sales rose as well, confirmed at almost 20,000 tons. However, non-EU European countries as a whole saw a sharp fall because of the Russian embargo, which cut overall export volumes by half. 

The Italian ambassador

One of the strong points of this product has surely been supply-side concentration, both worldwide and in Italy. In Italy, where a fragmented supply side has often been one of the main causes of crises in the produce sector, the situation in kiwifruit appears to be much better precisely because the producers of this crop are more united than others. The CSO chairman, Paolo Bruni, spoke of precisely this aspect: “We should not forget that home consumption was rising strongly until a few years ago and is now stable at over 100,000 tons of kiwifruit a year. Nor should we forget the effort that CSO has made over the years, together with governments, regional services and our members, to open up new markets that could become important outlets for our product.” At the moment, the Italian efforts are targeting Japan, a country with decreasing home supplies and a great need for foreign kiwifruit.


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Cucumbers that stay green longer

The key to the improved fruit shelf life, is mutation of the “stay green gene” in the cucumber plant

Cucumbers which have a shelf life of up to 5 weeks – thanks to mutation induced in the cucumber plant’s DNA – are described in a patent application by Enza Zaden Beheer B.V.

According to documents recently published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), even if conventional cucumbers are wrapped in foil to extend their shelf life, they still turn yellow within 1-2 weeks. And while cooling extends the shelf life of some other fresh produce, low temperatures tend to cause chill injury when it comes to cucumbers.

But the Dutch plant breeding company says its invention involves a cucumber plant (Cucumis sativus) producing fruit that, under standard storage conditions, takes 4-5 weeks to turn yellow.

Once ripe and yellow, cucumbers are usually bitter and sour, which is why they are mainly eaten in their unripe green form, it says.

The key to the improved fruit shelf life is mutation of the “stay green gene” in the cucumber plant. The application says the mutation can be introduced by use of mutagenic chemicals such as ethyl methane sulfonate (EMS) or by irradiation of plant material with gamma rays or fast neutrons.

Compared to that in conventional cucumber plants, the expression of the stay green gene in the new plant, or the enzymatic activity of the protein which the gene encodes, is lower.

“In the research that led to the present invention, it was surprisingly found that a reduced expression of the present gene or a reduced enzymatic activity of the present protein provided fruits having an extended shelf life for a time period up to five weeks when stored under standard storing conditions for cucumbers,” the application says.

Source: WIPO, 1. (WO2016012346) STAY GREEN CUCUMBER PLANT:

Image: conventional cucumbers

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Promotion pays off for Chilean blueberries

Chile is now the largest exporter of blueberries worldwide and the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest producer, benefitting from the contrasting seasons.

After last season’s cold spells, Chilean blueberry exports this campaign reached 91,000 tons, meaning growth of roughly 22% on 2013/14 (74,653 tons), but only 5% on the previous season. The main markets are the US and Canada (67%), followed by Europe (23%) and Asia (10%), two markets currently growing in demand. This growth in the ‘new’ markets of Europe and Asia evidences the promotional and marketing efforts by exporter companies and the Blueberry Committee, which with the help of ProChile have dedicated consistent work and resources to the promotion of Chilean blueberries. “We believe this effort has definitely led to an increase in blueberry consumption in different markets worldwide, creating greater business opportunities for all concerned”, said Blueberry Committee CEO Andrés Armstrong.

Growing markets

In the case of Asia, the countries leading the growth of Chilean blueberry consumption are China and South Korea, where Chile has established phytosanitary protocols and which have now surpassed Japan, another country of interest in the region. “In Europe, the growth of blueberry exports to the port of Rotterdam in Holland highlights the impact of the Committee’s promotional campaigns in countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway in Scandinavia, as well as the United Kingdom, which is the main destination market in Europe for Chilean blueberries”, adds the Blueberry Committee CEO. For next season, Chilean Blueberry and ProChile will keep up their promotional effort in these markets, in addition to the US and Canada, looking to open up new channels and consumer segments. They are also currently working on new phytosanitary agreements with India. 

Images courtesy of Chilean Blueberry Committee:

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Large apple stocks in the EU

As for the varieties, red apples gained in market share since the consumer prefers them.

The apple stocks as per 1st December in the European Union, reported by the World Apple Association, show a small decline of 1.4% in availability, though the 5.1 million tons of apples stored is still the second largest registered at that date. November sales were slow and the Russian embargo was hurting Polish exporters.
This year, it is more difficult to pass the Belarus borders and exporters are not taking any more risks of Russian customs agents destroying the produce.
In Italy there are also large quantities available of about 1.5 million tons, but they have the capacity to place the fruit over the season, although the war in Libya is hindering exports. Last year, the Far East markets looked promising, giving hope that the drop in oil prices may keep imports in the oil exporting countries on track.
The French stock was at 15% or 625,000 tons.
A good local market and exports to far away destinations will help to place this volume at a reasonable price.
As for the varieties, red apples gained in market share since the consumer prefers them. Big promotion programmes, free distribution and the school fruit scheme will be welcomed.
The competition in the export markets will not be hard, as US stocks of fresh market apples on 1st January were 1.2% lower than last year at the same time. The January total was similar to the five-year average of 90.7 million bushels, according to the January Market News report from the US Apple Association.


This article appeared on page 86 in the News section of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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Bananas from Ecuador in Asia to stay?

Asian consumers really like Ecuadorian bananas, which is why the country’s exporters forecast that these quantities will be repeated for 2015 and 2016, or even increased slightly up to 17 million boxes.

Weather problems in the Philippines in 2014 created opportunities in the Asian market that Ecuador’s banana exporters hope will endure.

Ecuador has always exported to Asia. But until now, only insignificant volumes were being shipped, because even though the quality of Ecuadorian produce was better than the local supply, the shippers could easily be priced out of business. Year-end figures for 2013 showed exports of just 3 million crates. But in 2014, the Philippines had weather problems and was unable to supply its market share, leaving the window open for Ecuadorian operators to export an impressive 16 million boxes.

Asian consumers really like Ecuadorian bananas, which is why the country’s exporters forecast that these quantities will be repeated for 2015 and 2016, or even increased slightly up to 17 million boxes. Even when Philippine fruit comes back onto the market, it seems likely that Asian consumers will continue to appreciate the good prices and high quality of bananas from Ecuador. But this all remains to be seen, depending on market stability.

For Ecuador, last year 2015 was unusual, with constantly low prices. Historically, the campaign is split into two periods: high prices and low prices. Annual report graphs outlined how one season and the high-priced period minimised the losses that occurred during the low price periods. When doing the books, it was usually considered a “good” season. Nevertheless, in 2015 the price of Ecuadorian banana suffered no periods of variation, and instead remained stable. This new model gave rise to concern and uncertainty in the sector, with exports to Asia most likely to suffer.


This article appeared on page 80 in the News section of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

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Guatemala’s snow pea: the peace crop

About three-quarters of Guatemalan production of snow peas, sugar snap peas and French beans is exported to the US, while 25% goes to Europe and 1% to Canada, Mexico and the rest of Central America.

Snow pea cultivation in Guatemala is known as “the peace crop”, since it came into being three decades ago to give an opportunity to rural communities affected by the armed conflict raging in the country. Specifically, it helps young people integrate into an economic activity for the development of their communities and is fast becoming one of the country’s largest nontraditional export products. Today, 30 years later, the crop is well-known for its quality and year-round availability, as well as the direct economic impact it has had on the livelihood of thousands of local people.

Highest quality standards 

About three-quarters of Guatemalan production of snow peas, sugar snap peas and French beans is exported to the US, while 25% goes to Europe and 1% to Canada, Mexico and the rest of Central America. These crops are produced under different certified standards, including Global GAP, Tesco Nature’s Choice, Primus GFS, HACCP, BRC and Fair Trade, among others. In addition, there is FUNDARVEJA, a social responsibility foundation, created to contribute to integral development of the families and areas related to snow pea, sugar snap pea and French bean cultivation. 

The Committee’s sustainability project

Guatemala’s snow pea, sugar snap pea and French bean industry has formed an Association in the US to provide a common platform for Guatemalan producers and exporters and North American importers to promote Guatemalan crops nationwide. At the same time, the industry maintains a presence at major events to promote vegetables from Guatemala, such as PMA in North America and Fruit Logistica in Europe. The Snow Pea and Vegetables Committee is composed of exporters and 45,000 families of small producers of snow peas, sugar snap peas, French beans and other vegetables, spread throughout more than 200 rural communities located in regions of the central and western highlands and north east and east of Guatemala, mainly with an estimated 7,000 ha of peas and 4,500 ha of French beans, generating employment and economic development for men and women in areas hit in the past by the armed conflict. 

This article appeared on page 72 in the News section of edition 141, Jan/Feb 2016, of Eurofresh Distribution magazine. Read that issue online here.

Snow pea image: Public Domain,

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Product ‘tropicalisation’ important for Costa Rican market

Though its population is small – just 4.8 million people – Costa Rica adds more than 2 million tourists and thousands of affluent retirees to its base of retail food consumers every year.

Suppliers of food for Costa Rica’s retail market should show more interest in ‘tropicalising’ products, a new GAIN report says.

Tropicalising involves concepts such as packaging in smaller volumes and in a manner appropriate for the heat of the tropics, and incorporating popular local flavours, such as fruit, etc, it says.

It also reports that Costa Rican food executives encourage US food manufacturers and suppliers to, among other things, be more aggressive in all sectors, but especially regarding canned and fresh fruits and vegetables, and processed foods; and to show greater interest in providing environmentally friendly packaging.

According to ‘Costa Rica: Retail Foods’, the economic outlook in Costa Rica is promising, “economic growth is steady and a solid base of middle to upper-class consumers is expanding in the country.” Though its population is small – just 4.8 million people – Costa Rica “adds more than 2 million tourists and thousands of affluent retirees to its base of retail food consumers every year.”

Best prospects for exports to Costa Rica

Costa Rica imports fresh fruits year-round, but about 70% of total domestic consumption of non-tropical fruits occurs during the Christmas season (October through December).

Mexico, Chile and Guatemala are the main competitors of the US in the Costa Rican fresh fruit, wines and vegetable market.

While the most favourable export prospects for the US lie in processed products, in recent years, “consuming more convenience and healthy foods has been the trend and has resulted in good prospects for US exports of fresh fruit (mainly apples, grapes, peaches and pears), processed fruits and vegetables (especially canned fruits), and snack foods (including chips, cookies and candies),” GAIN says.

The US and Chile export similar products to Costa Rica, but during different seasons. “Imports from Chile take place from January to July. During the rest of the year, imports come mostly from the United States, except for those fruits available year-round.” Canada also poses slight competition in the fruit and potato sector because of its 2002 FTA with Costa Rica.

Fruit and vegetable production in Costa Rica

Tropical vegetables and fruits are among the locally produced products that present competition to US exporters in the Costa Rican market.

Costa Rica has been incorporating advanced technologies into the preservation of locally produced foods – preserves, concentrates, deep freezing, canning, and packaging thus opening the door to new markets and diversity, both for internal consumption and also for export.

Key Costa Rica exports include bananas, heart of palm, concentrated tropical fruits and jalapeno peppers.

“Tropical fruits and vegetables like bananas, pineapples, cantaloupes, watermelons, mangoes, cassava, ginger, yams, roots and tubers, vegetables and greens – produced both with conventional methods as well as organically – have been very important products in the international markets, as much as for fresh food consumption as for fresh raw ingredients,” the report says.

Retail in Costa Rica

In 2014, the retail sector continued its planned expansion with major retailers moving deeper into the small store segment, targeting those who shop in convenience and small stores. “Additionally, the Costa Rican market of wholesale supermarkets continues to grow, mainly driven by the opening of convenience stores, bakeries, ‘sodas’ (small low end restaurants), restaurants and hotels in recent years.”

Source: Costa Rica: Retail Foods
Image of popular Costa Rican tourist destination Jaco Beach: by Costaricapro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Planasa succeeds with Adelita

Planasa at Fruit Logistica 2016: Hall 18, Stand A08

Planasa at Fruit Logistica 2016: Hall 18, Stand A08

Developed and registered by Planasa, the Adelita variety has become raspberry of the moment in Andalusia’s fields as well as worldwide.

The large, attractive fruit immediately stands out, and its great flavour has the perfect balance between acidity and sweetness. Moreover, this variety has a long commercial shelf life.

Adelita is the only “Primocaña” variety raspberry that enables growers to produce fruit throughout the winter in sunny climes such as Huelva or central Mexico, as well as in summer in the cooler northern European countries. Additionally, it should be noted that it is very easy to manage, as it provides high yields and is easy to harvest.

All these qualities make Adelita the favourite for consumers seeking superior quality 365 days a year. Currently, over 2,000 ha of Adelita are cultivated worldwide. For all these reasons, Planasa will be attending Fruit Logistica 2016 with a stand that is 100% Adelita.

“In just four years, Adelita as reach the top, a success that we want to share with our partners and customers,” said Alessandre Darbonne. 

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Summer Kiwi presents MERIS, the green kiwi in perfect shape

MERIS, the new green kiwifruit variety, will be revealed at the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin at the SUMMERFRUIT stand, Hall 4.2 - C 05.

MERIS, the new green kiwifruit variety, is raising great expectations. Now due for launching in 2016, the first 50,000 plants of this excellent product will soon be marketed in Europe, undoubtedly with great success.

This varietal innovation was discovered in Verona in 2012. The result of a mutation of Hayward, while retaining the elongated shape typical of the variety, it is distinguished by having dry matter one point higher and a harvest period that begins 10 days sooner. The fruit is less acidic and has better dry matter content. Thanks to this combination of factors, MERIS has the best taste qualities around. It also resembles the Hayward in its high productivity and good resistance to cold storage.

Trials are already underway with experimental implants, with marketing of the first MERIS fruits scheduled for 2018.

This excellent fruit, whose harvest begins in mid-October, will be revealed at the Fruit Logistica trade fair in Berlin at the SUMMERFRUIT stand, Hall 4.2 – C 05.