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Agri D.O.C. 2 PO

Italy: Varietal innovation in citrus cultivation as an opportunity

"Our company was established in 1991 as a low liability company. We have managed to gain the trust of producers by always buying the same quantities, with the same quality from the same suppliers. In 2005, we decided to start a PO in order to have a bigger influence on the market," says Stefano Pirillo (in the photo below), chairman and sales manager of the Agri D.O.C. 2 PO located in Calabria.

"We have always relied on high quality and chose the companies on the Sibari Plain according to their specialities (e.g. early, medium or late varieties). We manage to sell produce with good organoleptic qualities throughout the campaign while at the same time supporting our producers for the varietal innovation of oranges and clemetines so as not to miss out on the best periods profit-wise. In fact, clementines and oranges in October and from January onwards only originate from Spain."

"Thanks to the support of a good technical structure led by agronomist Francesco Perri, we managed to locate some areas in the Sibari plain where early varieties give their best. We created a map together with our producers."

The PO currently processes between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes of citrus fruit - 4,000 tonnes of clementines and 2,000 of Navel oranges. 1,500 tonnes of clementines are either early or late cultivars, and the production is expected to double in the next two years as investments were made, despite the fact people say this sector is in crisis. 

"At the moment, the market is good for early and late clementines. We started processing the Caffin/Oronules variety on 10th October and we will continue on with Spinoso, which has particularly good organoleptic qualities. The only issue is with the colour of the peel (60%), caused by the high temperatures. Otherwise, sales are good."

Pirillo points out how Italian consumers distinguish the flavour of clementines and therefore, when they find the Spinoso or Caffin varieties, they buy these rather than the Spanish produce. "Spain does not sell where our products are available."

"I must say that retailers are also trying to sell more Italian produce, despite the fact that there are minimal quantities available. In fact, the problem we have is that we do not have enough volumes to meet the demands of the entire Italian market. We mostly sell early varieties in Italy and send common clementines abroad (Germany and Eastern Europe). 80% of our produce is sold in Italy."

Producers do not mind trying innovative varieties, the only problem is represented by costs - clementine producers must in fact wait at least 4-5 years before trees start producing. "If all of this had began years ago, the situation would be better by now," says Francesco Perri.

High quality productions also need machinery. "The PO upgraded all of the machinery 5 years ago. We have electronic graders that select fruit according to grade, weight and colour and packagers that pack the produce in nets, bags, etc. We have the best technology available on the market, even though it is all quite expensive. Yet you need modern technology if you want to reach certain markets, because it is pointless if you have a good product but are unale pack it."

The PO aims to conquer new markets in the future- at the moment, Russia and Ukraine are the most interesting , where the excess produce is currently being sent. "We prefer not to sell to other Eastern European countries like Poland because it is not worth our time." 

Late oranges
A better assortment means stronger commercial and bargaining power. The PO has taken some steps forward with regards to late oranges, as they "harvest around 600-700 tonnes of late Navel and sell them in Italy in April. Results are good so far, as we have managed to conquer market shares that we did not think even possible. Consumers seem to like the produce and prefer it to others from Spain or Morocco, so much so that demand is on the rise." 

"Innovation is the lifeblood of the company. Without it and without new products and new ways to sell them, there can be no future."

Stefano Pirillo - Chairman and sales manager
Cell.: (+39) 348 3801498
OP Agri D.O.C. 2 srl
C.da Carlo Curti
87060 Cantinella di Corigliano (CS)
Tel.: (+39) 0983 80125
Fax: (+39) 0983 808970

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