Agrumaria Tirrenica

Italy: Low demand for oranges and clementines in the last two weeks

"We can say that this year is maybe worse than the last one, not only because of the weather (stuffy heat followed by abundant rain), but also due to the volcanic ash from the Etna that scalded fruit. It is not possible to see the damage straight away, but some black spots can be noticed right after grading and waxing. There have been black rains for days now, causing extensive damage. We will have to discard at least 30-40% of the produce."

This is what Pasquale Straputicari from Agrumaria Tirrenica, located in San Ferdinando (Calabria) and associated to the Levante PO, reported.

"As regards grades, we can say that sizes are pretty standard this year, despite some smaller fruits. Production is slightly lower, but productive areas remained the same. Though there are some areas that were left uncultivated because of the increased production costs."

The campaign started at the beginning of November. There were problems connected with the colour of clementines, due to high temperatures and therefore the lack of a change in temperature between day and night delayed ripening. "We mainly work with common clementines, and we have limited quantities of the Nova and Hernandina variety. Currently we manage to sell almost 10 tonnes of clementies a day."

The orange season is expected to end in April 2014, though at the moment things are going slow. Despite the fact that demand for Navels looked good at the beginning, things are now stalling. "In the past two weeks in particular, there was a total lack of demand."

Just like many other companies in the Gioia Tauro plain, Agrumaria Tirrenica exports 70-80% of its citrus fruit in cooperation with domestic and foreign retailers and general markets. "If the produce is not of the right colour, though, Polish and Romanian supermarket chains do not want it. It is illegal to heat-treat it, so we just have to wait for it to ripen. Things were further complicated by a big hailstorm that took place two weeks ago in the Rosarno-Rizziconi-Gioia Tauro area, which affected our citrus fruit."

In addition to exporting its production to Eastern Europe, the company also sells it to Germany. Exports are a result of the need to sell. "We do not go abroad for money, we do it because there is no demand in Italy!" Competition from Spain is still strong, but Pasquale also talks about great quantities of Moroccan citrus fruit at lower prices.

Once processed and graded according to the demands of the market, citrus fruit is usually packed in plastic, cardboard crates or in nets. "Some want the produce loose and we take advantage of this to avoid using plastic, which is highly polluting."

Part of the orange production is also destined to the processing industry. "We have a contract with a Sicilian company producing juice."

Concerning 2014, Pasquale talks about the will to increase cultivated areas and introduce new varieties of clementines. "If I could manage to extend the productive and sale calendar, prices would be better. It is vital for us growers to have higher profits."

The company also has a couple of hectares destined for kiwi production. "The PO which I am part of has 40-50 hectares. We mainly sell the produce to Northern Italy, but there are some stocking problems. We were once renowned as our kiwis could be kept in storage units until April-May, but not any more as they ripen early. One of our good clients from Cuneo decided not to buy our kiwis precisely for this reason. Anyway, sales are stalling at the moment, so we will have to start over from late January-early February 2014."

Agrumaria Tirrenica and PO Levante are part of the Coldiretti direct sale circuit. "A drastic drop in sales was recorded (around 50%). We sold more in this period last year. Of course the economic crisis is a reason behind it, but it also looks like an excuse: people prefer to buy technology and save on food. People renounce to a kilo of clementines, which costs €0.80 on average, but are not prepared to do without a new smartphone. At least that is what is seems to me," concludes Pasquale.

Pasquale Straputicari
Agrumaria Tirrenica di Pasquale Massimo Straputicari
Via Firenze, 54
89026 San Ferdinando (RC)
Tel./Fax: (+39) 0966 723111
Web: (we wish to warn our readers that the website is experiencing some technical difficulties at the moment)

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