The last citrus fruit campaign in Sicily was extremely positive. However, this year the volumes are not the same as last year. This is mainly because of the Tristeza (CTV) effects and of the heavy and persistent rains which devastated the Western-Sicilian production areas. Despite all these issues, experts still have positive expectations.
Sara Grasso is the export manager for Oranfrizer, one of the most important citrus fruit companies in the Italian landscape. She explained to FreshPlaza: “We have a very consistent offer for the export, both in terms of quality and volumes. We think that the Sicilian oranges offer can improve in terms of value thus influencing the reactions of some of the international markets”.
“Our challenge is to make the international markets understand why the prices increased – since consistent volumes and quality are demanded. We export to those most profitable international markets that want only the best produce. Therefore, they can acknowledge the value of our citrus fruits – also thanks to our constant dialogue and transparency towards customers”.
The damages to the young implants
The crop must be preserved if it is to satisfy the demand
The persistent and heavy rains surely did not help the Western-Sicily citrus fruit production.
Nello Alba is the Oranfrizer CEO and he shared his thoughts: “The recently renovated citrus groves were the most affected by floods. On the other hand, the storms damaged every implant, especially in those areas close to watercourses. We are doing our best to promote the produce coming from those groves we monitored. We can successfully satisfy both the national and international markets. We will be available through all the Italian MMR’s sales channels. Additionally, we will keep exporting – especially to the UK and Norway. It is crucial to safe keep the territory. These orchards have to be protected and guarded by the State – the available harvest cannot be decimated by organised crime".
The Oranfrizer marketing manager Salvo Laudani added, “There are several challenges that must be faced directly on the field, in Sicily. We have to focus on production redevelopment and on varietal renovations. Innovation must go hand in hand with the research for adequate water sources and useful methods to manage their use. We have to re-establish safety in the countryside in order to stop the thefts so that legality prevails in the agricultural sector. The well-structured companies have already started a renovation process that necessitates consistency.
The varietal innovations coming to the markets in 2019
Alba pointed out again, “We will ship six different types of Tarocco red oranges over six months, from December to May: Tarocco Nucellare, Ippolito, Lempso, Sciara, Meli, Sant’Alfio. We have multiplied the number of Sicilian orange varieties we ship to markets. Some of them – like the Tarocco Ippolito, for instance – are the most demanded. In any case, we will keep working in order to inform MMRs customers about our excellent oranges and citrus. Their biodiversity will help us to increase the available volumes and thus prolong the season as much as possible”.
The CEO continued, “There other red orange varieties aside from the Tarocco, such as the Moro and the Sanguinello. We are already shipping the Naveline blonde oranges to markets, then we will go with the Washington Navel variety and we will end with the Valencia and Lane Late varieties. With regards to lemons, we are about to harvest our best produce of the year, the Primofiore. We will also ship the Femminelli Siracusani and the 2KR. There are small yet constant novelties also with regard to the mandarins – which are extremely appreciated by kids”.
Marketing by air to China
Sara Grasso pointed out, “Oranfrizer is very interested in the Chinese market – even though the fruit export conditions are not ideal, and they do not facilitate shipping large volumes. With regard to the citrus fruit export to China, Oranfrizer received requests which we are working on. The fields destined for the export to this market are in perfect conditions and we are applying the required phytosanitary protocols without any problem”.
“For China, we have Torocco and Moro red oranges and Navel blond oranges available. The sea transport takes a too long time and therefore the produce stored in the containers could spoil. The worst part is that one discovers this only at the end of the journey when the containers get opened. Air transportation is a very nice solution, but it makes the prices greatly increase. Therefore, only limited quantities of citrus fruit can be exported via air transportation – and they will be quite expensive eventually. The two transportation alternatives will determine the freshness, the quality, the volumes and the produce placement in this new market”.
Grasso clarified, “These kinds of commercial agreements vary according to what the interlocutors want to achieve with it. Those partners that want to export to China must be extremely specialised in fresh produce logistics and distributions. For us, it is important that they understand the uniqueness of this produce and that they preserve it until the very last. Only in this way will the Made in Italy red-orange be successful in China. We are optimistic. Next week, we will see if there will be any news regarding a first export – this is a sort of test to explore the new market”.