Ettore Ceccarelli. Below, with Hans Klotz.
FreshPlaza (FP): How is the pear campaign going?
Ettore Ceccarelli (EC): The season has been rather difficult and wrong information affected the commercial trend.
FP: How do you mean?
EC: Information on product availability and, therefore, crop operations were affected by external factors that were untrue.
FP: Could you be more specific?
EC: Temperature drops in 2017 led to the assumption that "pears were short all over Europe", so small deformed fruits were not removed. Then, high temperatures and drought in June and July resulted in grades that were too small, so consumption dropped in August, September and October. What is more, the harvesting calendar caused overlaps with Spanish early (Ercolini) and Italian early Carmen and Santa Maria cultivars. Not to mention the prolonged overseas production of Fiorelle and Abate, which have been available in retail chains abroad until August.
FP: So has the weather been the problem?
EC: I don't think so. Operators, producers and technicians did their bit too. In July, there were rumours about a 10% drop in the volume of Abate pears, which actually turned out to be a 15% surplus. There were also rumours about a lack of Conference in the Netherlands, which was actually of just 7%. Nobody talked about the boom of Rocha pears (+69%, almost 200,000 tons!), which are increasingly popular on the British, German and French markets. In Brazil it is the most popular variety together with Williams.
FP: So the whole system had problems...
EC: A good season one year doesn't mean the next will also be good. In addition, commodity exchange councils don't help operators (both private and cooperatives) as the quotations suggested only apply to 5% of exchanges.
Pears on display at Fruit Logistica 2018 in Berlin
FP: How have you reacted at Ceccarelli?
EC: It was very hard to make people understand that the rumours weren't real. I actually go in the orchards and make statistics myself, so me and my collaborators immediately realised what was going on. The commercial trend, the higher volumes collected and de-stocking proved us right.
EC: This is an important issue: with no chemical products, the only thing suitable against the scalding of Williams, Abate and Conference pears is 1-methylcyclopropene. It keeps them crunchy but might make them inedible. I saw pears on sale in early November that were so green consumers definitely wouldn't have been able to eat them.
FP: How can this problem be tackled, what do you do about it?
EC: First of all, the protocol needs to be followed and planning must be put in place: Abate pears grown in Modena are different to those cultivated in Ferrara or Rovigo. In addition, after seeing the quality of pears on sale in Italian and foreign supermarkets, I dare say planning could be improved. Not only do we comply with protocols, we also select softer batches with the highest sugar content so consumers can have the best fruit possible. It's not easy, but we try to do our best.
FP: What about the future?
EC: Argentina authorised "Harvista" In 2016: the 1-methylcyclopropene molecule was studied as a formula that can be applied in orchards a few days before harvesting. This would enable obtaining the same benefits yet with riper fruit. Unfortunately, it would seem this solution will only be authorised in Italy in 2020 or 2021.
FP: And how is the market going in the meantime?
EC: The William pear season is over in Italy. We will start with the fruit from Argentina on 20th March. The Italian Abate pear season will end in 40 days' time and then it will be the turn of those from Argentina, which are already on their way here.