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Interview with VOG Director, Gerhard Dichgans:
2014/15 apple harvest starting early with good size and quality
The Europe-wide harvest in the 28 EU member states will not reach the 12 million limit, but it is still the largest harvest in recent years. In Poland in particular, a record harvest exceeding 3.5 million t is expected which, in view of the import ban for Europe's fruit imposed by Russia, represents the largest element of uncertainty in this spring marketing.
Mr Dichgans, before looking more closely at the present sales season, can you look back on the 2013/14 campaign?
The marketing of last year's harvest started in 2013 with great optimism and high prices. However, remnants of the economic crisis over recent years and the resulting drop in consumption have generally limited spending on food, including fruit and vegetables, in particular apples in many of Europe's core countries. This meant that de-stocking of the stored harvest was delayed month after month and was only completed at the end of June/early July for some of our main varieties including Braeburn, Granny or Red Delicious.
Now, at the start of the new 2014 harvest, only small stocks of Golden remain, but which have a firm customer base until mid-September and a clearly defined market, which we have also supplied in the past. With the arrival of the new Golden harvest, the stock from the previous harvest is then sold.
How is the new harvest in South Tyrol turning out?
The South Tyrol harvest is estimated at 1.2 m tons, so nearly 9% over the previous year's figure. This represents an outstanding result for our region. But apart from this figure alone, which by itself is obviously worthy of a headline, we should remember that we have already reached this harvest volume - namely in 2011.
Cropping and fruit sizes are fine. To harvest the right fruit quality with the necessary storage characteristics, the harvesting guidelines for our growers were revised again this spring. I am assuming good quality for the 2014 harvest, also because hailstorms have only affected small areas up to now.
What should we expect in terms of price development?
There is already active demand for the first Gala, the overseas stocks for this variety having been practically cleared. The passage from imported goods to fresh European apple harvest therefore seems to be fairly smooth. The low price level, with which we are climbing out of the old marketing season, is obviously a strong incentive for a rapid transition for our customers. Sales pressure, which builds every year during the harvest weeks, is also a contributing factor for the season to get off to a buoyant start. I see this as the best prerequisite for clearing the expected harvest volumes on schedule and to head into calmer waters next year.
How will the Russian-imposed import ban on European food, including fruit and vegetables, affect the balance on the apple market?
It was foreseen that it would go beyond the initial import ban on Polish apples. However, this initial decision was to hit the Polish apple sector at its core because, for historical reasons, Russia is Poland's largest market and therefore vital importing an annual 500,000 to 700,000 tons of Polish apples. If this situation lasts, it may lead to an imbalanced European apple market – even more with the bumper harvest expected in Europe. On the other hand, Russia has to replace the banned imports from Poland and Europe with imports from other regions. This may lead to supplies from China or - from next spring - purchases from the southern hemisphere. This means that these quantities will be withdrawn from other markets. All in all, this is a major global shift in the flow of goods, where winners and losers are not yet known. A conclusion can be drawn as of now, however: namely that there will be fewer and fewer apples from overseas on the European market and Europe will become increasingly self-sufficient.
What innovations can we expect in the new season?
Many new plantations of the last years will now come into crop. The Nicoter/Kanzi® and Scifresh/Jazz® varieties are making great progress in sales volumes with this harvest. Our leading priority this season is therefore to build up distribution of these two outstanding apple varieties. In addition, we will use INTERPOMA, to be held in Bozen in November, as an opportunity to officially present a world première of a new yellow-skinned variety, a wonderfully tasty, juicy and crunchy apple, a great addition to the current selection of varieties. I am unable to give any more details at the current point in time and I must ask you to be patient or meet me in South Tyrol in three months.
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