Freight costs cut availability of Italian chestnuts in the US

Suppliers have said the recently concluded Italian chestnut season was excellent. Good volume and quality was seen in the fields due to the cold winter season that occurred last year. The biggest issue faced was getting the chestnuts to the United States, where importers faced significant freight costs.

"Our season concluded at the end of December," said Maria Conte, of Four Cees, based in New Jersey. "It was a great season, with plenty of product as well as good quality from the fields. The only problem was getting it over to the United States. Air freight costs climbed very high, especially for those relying on ad-hoc arrangements. To ensure the highest quality, we rely on air freight because by sea, the product takes too long to arrive. The travel time is 18 days and when you include customs inspections and local transport, the product can be up to 30 days old by the time it arrives."

Conte said that demand was steady, although there were more enquiries in general due to the difficulty some suppliers had with freight. "Our season opened in the first week of October," she said. "We like to have them available from Columbus Day onward. Demand was steady and consistent with typical years. However, more people were looking around for chestnuts, given the difficulty in getting them in this season."

Local connections 
Four Cees source their chestnuts from the Avellino province in southern Italy. Maria Conte said her family have had connections with the same growers for decades, allowing them to source chestnuts that they can personally attest to.

"My father has been working with the same growers for close to 50 years," Conte said. "I remember visiting the fields when I was young, observing as the trees dropped the nuts which were then gathered by hand, as they continue to do today."

Additionally, Four Cees have their own European made packing equipment, which enables them to pack their own bags according to customer requirements. "We have our own facility so that we can pack the sizes we need," Conte continued. "We can pack the chestnuts in numerous sized packages, including 1lb, or 1/2lb brown bags which can have seasonal designs on them. Alternatively, we can also put them in standard retail netting bags."

For more information:
Maria Conte
Four Cees, Inc.
Tel: +1 (908) 527-6611

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