Northern Italy was a major source of the virus at the beginning of the Corona crisis. The exceptional situation also had a considerable impact on agricultural markets and the export of fruit and vegetables, said Alex Weitgruber, managing director of Bolzano-based Vetter LLC, looking back on the past months.
"In the middle of March, we came through the hoarding period, hardly lagging behind the demand for fruit and vegetables. However, there was a lack of harvest workers, products and trucks in the production areas. To make matters worse, we had to move many employees to our home office overnight, so to speak, because of the legal regulations on safety at work.
Picture: Cousin CEO Alex Weitgruber
However, the subsequent lockdown in Germany, and not least the resulting change in people's shopping behaviour, then led to a sharp drop in sales. Despite the sales losses, the exporter has a certain optimism for the near future. "Our healthy products will probably be in demand even in times of crisis," he stated in an interview.
Re-launch of the catering trade
Vetter Italia LLC mainly serves German wholesale customers in all major fresh food markets and also in rural areas of the Federal Republic. Due to the loss of the catering trade, this sales segment was particularly hard hit. "All in all, we have suffered a 50 percent drop in sales since the beginning of the crisis," Weitgruber explained.
In the meantime, however, business is slowly picking up again: The catering trade in Italy and Germany is gradually reopening its doors, which is why the "normal" supply chain is slowly but surely getting back on track. "What pleases me most is that we are able to maintain and secure all the jobs in the company despite the crisis," Weitgruber said. "This means that we can continue to offer our customers the service they have come to expect from our company in the future."
Groupage transports to Germany are the core competence of the South Tyrolean company.
Italian stone fruit harvesting begins
The crisis has clearly left its mark on the Italian economy, observes Weitgruber. "The harvest of Italian stone fruits is about to start, but we are still far from having enough harvest workers to cover the demand. We fear that these circumstances will considerably increase the producers' price expectations." In addition, the climatic conditions have also been particularly unfavourable for Italian stone fruit. Nevertheless, the first apricots, peaches and nectarines can be loaded as expected in week 21.
Domestic tourism will boost export markets again
On the demand side, according to Weitgruber, one important factor in the international fruit and vegetable trade is underestimated, namely tourism. "Normally millions of holidaymakers - many from Germany - come to Italy every year and consume tons of fruit and vegetables. Because of Corona, many of these tourists will go on holiday elsewhere, mostly within their own national borders".
This "home tourism" could turn out to be advantageous especially for the Italian exporters serving the German market. "As an Italian, I am naturally sorry for our tourism industry, but from a purely corporate point of view, this development may perhaps be of some benefit to us in terms of compensating somewhat for the loss of sales."