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Artichokes imported from Tunisia

There seems to be no reason why the vegetable market should be doing so badly. The mild weather and overproduction are slowing things down and the entire chain risks not being able to cover costs.

"There are a lot of artichokes available but not enough consumption. Luckily, no more produce is coming in from Egypt. Still, the price of domestic productions is not satisfactory, not even those from Tunisia are doing well, as expenses to bring them to Italy are high - each truckload costs €3,000/4,000 between customs and transport costs, i.e. €0.08 per artichoke," explains Giuseppe Ventura (in the photo) from La Zucca Rossa di Ventura operating at Centro Agro Alimentare di Napoli (CAAN).

A few days ago, Giuseppe was in Tunisia to verify product quality. "I tend to favour domestic artichokes, from Puglia in particular, but some clients specifically require foreign produce so, if I can, I make a personal assessment to guarantee the best quality."

So far, based on his customers' demands, the wholesaler has imported 2 truckloads of artichokes from Egypt and 2-3 from Tunisia.

One thing that Giuseppe stresses, especially when it comes to Tunisia, is that 90% of the produce is destined to Italy and mainly to Fondi, Latina, Rome, Naples and Puglia, while that destined to the processing industry mainly goes to Puglia. Artichokes are grown mostly by Italians who moved to Tunisia or who have moved their companies there.

"We have introduced our know-how into Tunisia and they have been keen to acquire the necessary techniques to cultivate high-quality crops."

As regards prices, Giuseppe reports a quotation of €0.13-0.17/head for the produce from Puglia, while that from Sicily sells at €0.15-0.17/head. High-quality artichokes from Tunisia do not drop below €0.27-0.28. "Basically we are just trying to cover our expenses. No one is making a profit."

"I believe the situation will remain like this at least until mid-March. Last year had been amazing. Now we just have to see how things go."

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