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Giuseppe Maldini

Italy: 2013 assessment for Orogel Fresco and future challenges

"This year, fruit premiums for our associate producers were higher than those of the past season and results for vegetables were also not bad, despite the fact that prices were more volatile. It must be said though, that harvested volumes were 20% lower than last year," says Giuseppe Maldini (in the photo), chairman of the Orogel Fresco cooperative.

Less produce
The drop in volumes is common in Italy, as every year there is 2-3% less produce. Maldini stresses that "such trend is even worse in our region, Emilia-Romagna, where the drop is of 5-6% each year. This year though, bad weather meant we lost 20% of the produce, as it damaged settings."

Economic results were particularly positive for apricots, with prices of around €1.30/kg and volumes reduced by 40-50%. Things were not as good for medium-late peaches. "We can say we are satisfied in general, even though producers that were left with little produce to convey, of course did not make much money. We would be happy if we could keep the same quotations next year too."

Part of the partners of Orogel Fresco already received their premiums in July. Maldini explains that they are "completing them in December. Once, they were all paid out at the end of the year, growers managed their revenues and expenses very well so they could afford to wait until Christmas for the money which they could then reinvest the following year. Nowadays things have changed and producers increasingly need to cash in the revenues at various times throughout the year to deal with all expenses."

Agriculture and institutions
The crisis is affecting the agriculture world, and institutions and European politics should pay more attention. According to the chairman, " the effect of the CAP on the turnover of companies could be assessed at 15%, but the rest comes from the market and depends on our capability to be competitive. Nowadays, the problem is that we cannot do everything ourselves as there are many factors, i.e. energy costs, bureaucracy, logistics and infrastructures, that simply do not depend on commercial farms. We can try to make ourselves heard, but we cannot substitute Legislators."

Giuseppe Maldini believes that agriculture has a big social role, not only because it produces food, but also because it contributes to the safekeeping of the territory and the environment. "Our job is extremely important and it should therefore be taken more into consideration by institutions." 

The relationship with retailers
Last but not least, the chairman analysed the relationship with retailers: "the work should be programmed more, but we cannot set up supply plans for periods longer than a week. This means we cannot establish constant prices for both parties and that warehouse operations are unpredictable. We are even thinking about changing working hours at our plants in 2014. At the moment, we start working at 8 am and start packing a bit randomly, as the real orders arrive at 11 am and leave at 2 pm. This leads to higher costs, especially for us, as we are the weakest link."

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