In a fluctuating segment such as the Sicilian citrus fruit one - affected by competition from abroad, price wars and unusual weather - there is only one exception: the extraordinary demand for Tarocco Lempso oranges.
FreshPlaza visited Motta Cooperativa Agricola to better understand the reasons behind this with sole administrator Lucio Olivieri.
In the photo, Lucio Olivieri, sole administrator of Motta Cooperativa Agricola.
"The only citrus fruit that sparked the interest and enthusiasm of consumers is Il Fragolino®, the feather in our cap. It boasts the varietal characteristics typical of Tarocco Lempso: red flesh with a unique flavor and an extraordinary anthocyanin pigmentation of the peel and flesh."
Motta Cooperativa Agricola was established in 2005 by 21 producers highly specialized in the cultivation and commercialization of citrus fruit and of clementines, tangerines, moro, navelina, sanguinello and tarocco oranges in particular. The groves cover 230 hectares in total, located in an area destined to the production of high-quality citrus fruit within the Motta Sant'Anastasia plain (CT).
"I believe I am not exaggerating when I say I am the creator of a revolution. The proof is in the fact that my foreign clients book supplies in advance without even questioning the prices although, if compared to the €0.40/kg of other local varieties, they are sky high. Switzerland is crazy about Il Fragolino® for its distinct strawberry aftertaste."
Why such a lively demand? The reason is simple: the high temperatures registered up until a few weeks ago delayed fruit ripening and pigmentation. However, this did not affect Il Fragolino® due to its high anthocyanin content. Prices currently hover between €2.00 and €2.20/Kg for grades 3/4/6.
Coop Motta started commercializing the fruit on 10th December 2019, one week later than in 2018, and with a slight drop in volumes, which usually reach around 350 tons/hectare.
Fragolino oranges boast a high sugar level of around 13-14 degrees Brix, a long shelf-life and a considerable resistance thanks to the characteristics of its peel. This means they are perfect for some market segments and mostly to be exported to far-away destinations.
Il Fragolino® seedless oranges are very much in demand especially in Northern Europe. Orders grow by 15% a year on average, especially in countries such as Switzerland, Germany, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands, which tend to look for genuine natural products that undergo no treatments.
"Il Fragolino conquered the market as it combines flavor and appearance thanks to the high anthocyanin content. Consumers remain enchanted by this fruit, which is also easy to peel. In addition, our research to reduce irrigation emphasizes these characteristics making these oranges the most eco-friendly on the market," concluded Euroagrumi director Salvatore Rapsarda.