A round table coordinated by FreshPlaza Italy director Rossella Gigli examined a few crucial issued for the segment: from varietal renewal in a market once dominated by green Hayward, to the role of Italy, which used to be the leading producer country in the northern hemisphere but whose position is now compromised due to this year's lower production.
The round table at Agri Kiwi Expo 2017 - (click here for the photo gallery)
The round table was preceded by a projection on saleable kiwi volumes in the northern and southern hemispheres, as it emerged during the latest IKO meeting in Portugal.
Giampiero Reggidori from Apo Conerpo presented a few figures, according to which 2017 will see a 5% drop in saleable volumes in the northern hemisphere with 701 thousand tons in total. In Italy, a 13.6% drop is expected compared to 2016 for a total of 390 thousand tons. The southern hemisphere, where production is now over, saw a 14.6% drop compared to 2016 with 642 thousand tons. If we consider that 2017 estimates for China are 1.35 million tons, we can see where future assets might move.
The presentation of IKO data by Giampiero Reggidori
The round table saw the participation of Craig Thompson, Europe operations manager for Zespri (and a kiwi producer), Alessandro Perugini as a Consorzio Kiwigold associate, Giampaolo Dal Pane from Summerfruit and owner of the rights for Dorì golden kiwis, Gabriele Farinelli from Agricolli Bio with export and traceability manager Marina Sulimenko as well as agronomic consultant Pietro Cimatti.
Rossella Gigli and Craig Thompson
In recent years, the varietal panorama has been completely overturned: from an almost absolute predominance of green kiwis, Zespri started to introduce the first golden kiwis of the Hort16A variety already in the early 2000s, now completely replaced by the more tolerant (to bacteriosis) SunGold.
At the moment, market demands, consumer trends and the subsequent increased profitability of golden kiwis are what drives breeders, producers and traders. Thomson himself confirmed that, had New Zealand continued producing only green kiwis, it would have lost importance. Now, however, the position of SunGold leads us to believe orchards will expand and might even exceed those dedicated to green kiwi cultivation.
Craig Thompson speaking
Italian producers of similar golden cultivars such as Consorzio Kiwigold and Summerfruit agree. Both Alessandro Perugini and Giampaolo Dal Pane stressed the importance of aspects such as appeal and shelf-life to make golden kiwis successful.
Marina Sulimenko, who had just come back from Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong, confirmed the interest of the Asian market for fruit with a different colour and appearance.
Of course this doesn't mean all of Italy is suitable for the production of golden kiwis (or red kiwis for that matter, as they are even more sensitive to bacteriosis). A solution could be covered orchards or soil-less techniques such as those tested by Vivai Dalpane. But there are areas in southern Italy such as Calabria or Metaponto that do seem perfect and could be explored further.
Giampaolo Dal Pane
Everybody talked about the difference in profitability between classic green and golden kiwis, as the latter reach an average producer price of €1.50. Demand for golden kiwis is increasing and might be essential to increase per capita consumption in the main market. Just think that per capita consumption in Europe is approximately 2 kg a year, so there's room for improvement, especially with targeted marketing and promotion campaigns.
What's certain is that, as highlighted by Gabriele Farinelli, among others, it will be not so much kiwi variety to prevail, but rather the quality perceived by consumers.
Quality parameters seem to divide into two "schools of thought": one focuses more on Brix level, while the other is based on dry matter content. According to the representative from Zespri Europe, it is thanks to a series of panel tests that the company is using this parameter to assess the commercial viability of a product. Alessandro Perugini instead cited the near infrared NIR technology to determine the quality profile of kiwis to be placed on the market.
In light of all of the above, the round table considered whether Italy is facing a sort of happy degrowth or if it can still be a protagonist.
Giampaolo Dal Pane took the chance to highlight the importance of communication campaigns that focus on the nutritional and health properties of kiwis, which are currently better known for their vitamin C content than for other substances such as for example arginine. The nursery gardener also thinks that the sector will grow only if it will be more selective and organised, as not everyone can do the same thing. Aggregation is essential to be competitive.
Zespri has done quite an important job which must be taken as an example. Craig Thompson stressed the importance of Italy within the company's strategic plan. The objective is to obtain kiwi supplies 12 months a year and no aspect concerning cultivation and commercialisation has been taken for granted.
Pietro Cimatti is rather optimistic about the sector's growth, also because of the demographic evolution of countries like China and India, which currently represent good part of the global population and are set to represent a good share of available income in the future.
Alessandro Perugini commented that, if degrowth is only regarding green kiwis while golden ones are increasing in popularity, then the phenomenon is positive. Also because it may lead to higher prices in the future, provided that suitable marketing strategies are implemented.
Vittorio Sambucci, who organised the event together with Roberto Morrillo, concluded by drawing attention to the importance of the production of this fruit in Italy and in Latina in particular, where considerable investments are currently being carried out for new varieties as well.
"We are second to no one and can compete with all the best producers in the world," was Sambucci's final comment as he thanked everyone who attended the 2017 edition of Agri Kiwi Expo (click here for the photo gallery).
Below: group photo - Left to right: Pietro Cimatti, Marina Sulimenko, Gabriele Farinelli, Giampaolo Dal Pane, Roberto Morrillo. Vittorio Sambucci, Rossella Gigli, Craig Thompson and Alessandro Perugini.