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A long-term cultivation project, with a technical-scientific approach

Italy: A new cooperative to promote the lemons of Rocca Imperiale

On 28 October 2019, in Rocca Imperiale, in the province of Cosenza, (Italy) a new cooperative was founded, under the name Produttori di Limoni di Rocca Imperiale Soc. Coop. Agricola.

Lemon cultivation is the most important agricultural activity in this area, which received a European recognition PGI in 2011.

This cooperative was born from the collaboration of two consultants: the agronomist Francesco Perri, a Citrus Scientist Specialist, and the engineer Antonella Marano, an expert on certifications and quality control.

"This area has 500 hectares of lemon groves, for a total production of over 20.000 tons, but the quantity that is sold under the PGI brand is only 0.5%. This is awkward and embarrassing, and must be changed. The lack of commercial structures that should boost the value of this product on-site, affects negatively both farmers and the territory."

This was explained by Pietro Buongiorno, president of the new cooperative, who added: "Foreign traders (colonizers) buy these lemons and then resell them under other brands. In the large-scale retail trade, the lemons from Rocca Imperiale are marketed as fruits that are part of other associations and geographical areas. Therefore, the mission of this new cooperative is to remove this product from the hands of the colonizers and traders and sell it under its own identity.”

The vice-president, Francesco Pace, reports: "Currently, the cooperative counts about ten members for a total production of 2.000 tons, with areas and quantities expected to increase in a few years. Our efforts are not only aimed towards greater economic value, but also at remedying an issue that is being aggravated year after year. We are therefore open to other producers who believe in this project."

Francesco Di Leo, project coordinator, comments: "This was a significant day for our territory. For several years now we have been discussing the need to create an organization capable of promoting our lemon, much appreciated for its excellent organoleptic characteristics. Instead, we are the slaves of these traders who have traditionally arrived in our territories buying at more or less reasonable prices and then reselling our lemons without any reference to the product's origin. This is why we have decided to work together and cooperate, in order to give greater value both to the product and to the entire production area".

From left, Francesco Pace, Pietro Buongiorno, Francesco Perri, Francesco Di Leo and Nicola Oriolo. 

Francesco Perri, an expert and consultant in the citrus fruit field, concluded the interview: "It was with great pleasure that I agreed to take part in this project, and contribute to it with a technical-scientific approach. Rocca Imperiale is certainly one of the most suitable areas for the cultivation of lemons in peninsular Italy: it counts 500 hectares of lemon groves located between the Ionian Sea and the Pollino mountains, in a natural oasis characterized by a microclimate very favorable to lemon growing. Low rainfall, great exposure to sunlight, rare temperature variations, and resistance to mal secco disease (Phoma tracheiphila), one of the main phytopathologies that affect lemons, are all factors that make this area the ideal habitat for these crops".

Conca Rocca Imperiale - lemon groves

"The ultimate goal - continues Perri - is not only to expand the lemon groves areas but, above all, to develop a larger production. We can't think of producing lemons only for few limited months. High quality is necessary but not enough, mostly because the partners and stakeholders want long-term lasting relationships. This cooperative will have to work towards an innovative approach, which will allow to increase volumes, and be of service to a greater number of customers and markets".

"We intend to implement a system that consists of new varieties/hybrids of lemons with a gradual ripening process, and that will improve, refine and introduce new cultivation techniques, in order to extend the seasonality of a high quality product that is also suitable for new premium markets, in line with environmental and social sustainability principles. A system that is applied, starting in the fields and continued in the warehouse, comprising packaging and promotion. The final goal will be to market Rocca Imperiale's PGI lemons under their own identity".

Contact information:
Produttori di Limoni di Rocca Imperiale Soc. Coop. Agr.
Via Gramsci snc
87074 Rocca Imperiale (CS)
Phone.1: (+39) 349/4694903 President Buongiorno Pietro
Phone.2: (+39) 320/3819847 Vice president Francesco Pace

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