The pear campaign in the important cultivation areas of Italy started a few weeks ago with the harvest of the first early varieties Santa Maria and Carmen. Soon the first Italian Abate Fetel will arrive on the German market.
But the signals of this year's campaign are anything but positive: in recent days, the estimates of the yield decline had to be corrected by -30%, or in some areas -50%. "One of the main reasons is the infestation of the trees by the brown marmorated stink bug," says wholesale supplier and exporter Alex Weitgruber of South Tyrolean company Vetter Italia GmbH.
This pest sucks the juice out of leaves and fruits, resulting in extreme deformation and staining. Italian agriculture has been fighting this ever-worsening problem for years. "Other reasons include the drought of the first few months of this year, the low temperatures in April and the heavy rains of May 2019. This has had an impact on flower growth. Thus, a ten-year low of Italian pear production is expected. As it stands now, a substantial part of the harvest will not be in line with the standards of the trade and will not be marketable as a Class 1," said Weitgruber. The outlook for the Kaiser Alexander and Conference varieties is not much better.
Shortages already noticeable
The consequences of climate change are now even being felt at the beginning of the main harvest, says the South Tyrolean grower. "With the Abate Fetel, there is already a harvest delay of 2 to 3 weeks: that is, some customers would like to start selling the Italian Abate, but these cannot yet be harvested as they are not yet ripe enough. There will certainly be bottlenecks later in the season."
Despite the difficult starting position at the beginning of this year's season, Italy remains the market leader on the European pear market, according to Weitgruber. "Now with regard to the Santa Maria we are heavily dependent on the pricing of the Spanish sector, which has made up for the last few years. But with the Abate Fetel we still have a pioneering role. I do not expect that situation to change in the next few years," he concludes.