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Italy: Convention dedicated to asparagus

Asparagus production and commercialisation is increasing. It may be one of the few vegetables that have been doing positively over the past few years and there is room for improvement. The situation was discussed on 19th February 2018 in Ferrara during a convention organised by Cso and Consorzio Asparago Verde di Altedo Igp.

The audience at the asparagus convention

The event, coordinated by Cso President Paolo Bruni, started with the latest data being presented by Elisa Macchi and Tomas Bosi. The three leading European producers are Germany, Spain and Italy. The EU produces 310 thousand tons in total and the three countries cover 70% of the total production. In 2016, Germany had 22 thousand hectares producing 120 thousand tons. Spain followed with 60 thousand tons (80% which are white asparagus). Italy produces around 50 thousand tons a year, mainly of the green variety.

"The main producer regions in Italy are: Puglia (50%), Veneto (18%), Campania 10%, Emilia Romagna 6%. There are the following Pdo and Pgi marks: Asparago bianco di Bassano, Cantello, Badoere, Bianco di Cimadolmo and IGP di Altedo." 

85% of Italian asparagus are of the green variety and 90% of the total is sold on the fresh produce market. Purchased volumes increased by 13% in 2016. Around 8000 tons are shipped abroad and 4000 tons are imported, mainly from Spain.

The audience

The President of the consortium Gianni Cesari recalled that the Pgi mark was recognised in 2003: it includes 30 municipalities in the Bologna and 26 in the Ferrara province. Now the most difficult part is promoting Altedo asparagus.

Simona Rubbi illustrated what's new regarding the specification. "It's currently being updated to modify aspects that can improve production. The variety list was extended to include Franco, Giove, Ercole, Vittorio and Athos." 

The speakers' table

"Yields per hectare have been increased from 10 to 12 tons per hectare. Packaging and labels will have to be uniform so as not to confuse consumers. Collective brands and co-branding with retailers will also be possible."

But what is the timeline? Simona Rubbi explained that the specification will have to be approved by the Region, Ministry and European Commission. Hopefully everything will be ready for the 2019 campaign.

Franco Girotti from Apofruit talked about the varieties about to become part of the specification. Male plants produce 30% more, so all hybrids are males. They are also more tolerant to disease and more uniform. All the varieties are hybrids and the main one is Eros, which currently covers 80% of the production. It is a late variety with a dark very appealing colour and very high yields. Veneto uses this variety to produce white asparagus. In addition, it can last for over 20 years.

Asparagus crop (Archive photo)

"Athos is a new variety that becomes available before Eros and is suitable for sandy soil. The objective is to reduce operations, water supplies and increase distance between rows. We have required a change in layout to plant between 18 thousand and 23 thousand plants per hectares. Sub-irrigation and fertigation are becoming more popular. Drips have become practically compulsory to guarantee abundant high-quality yields." 

Danilo Pirani from Patfrut stressed the importance of promotion. "Asparago verde di Altedo Igp has been cultivated in this area for centuries. We need consumers to be aware of that, especially since organoleptic qualities are excellent. There is room for improvement, as 60% of Italian families do not eat asparagus. We need to reach 6 families out of 10." 

Last but not least, Simona Caselli, Councillor for Agriculture at Regione Emilia Romagna, explained that the "Pgi mark is a symbol that must be promoted. Sometimes, however, producers and distributors don't work together. Retailers want constant supplies, so growers need to find a way to increase and organise productions."

Consorzio di Tutela dell'Asparago Verde di Altedo

Piazza Unità d'Italia 2
40051 Malalbergo (BO)
Tel.: (+39) 051 6620210
Fax: (+39) 051 872454

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