Since the third week of August, things are quite hectic on the Pankarter's fruit farm in south-eastern Styria, as the kiwi berries are now in season. This exotic among the berry fruits has enjoyed a slightly increasing popularity on the Austrian market in recent years. "However, the market share is growing more slowly than we had hoped a few years ago," says Johannes Pankarter, one of the first kiwi berry producers and trading company Kronprinz LLC partner.
As in other growing areas, the frosty nights have also had an impact on the Styrian kiwi berries. Pankarter: "By using frost candles and anti-freeze irrigation, we were able to save an estimated 80 percent of our harvest. Nevertheless, the product quality suffered from the late frost. Overall, we will see a mediocre yield."
Kiwi berry cultivation pioneer
For Pankarter, the adventure began about 10 years ago, when he first encountered the fruit in New Zealand. "At that time there were already small plants in Belgium and Switzerland and I planted an area of kiwi berries on my own farm, in addition to my blueberries. Currently, the fruit exotics are growing and thriving on a total of 5 hectares.
In the run-up to the start of the season at home in the middle and end of August, Kronprinz LLC is making an entertaining purchase from Portugal. At the end of October at the latest - when the last domestic batches arrive, the season comes to an end. "At the beginning of the season, the goods must be left to ripen for 4 to 5 days in the cold store. Currently, the post-ripening takes 2 to 3 days and at the very end of the season the freshly harvested goods are even immediately marketable and ready for consumption.
Low recognition levels
In the meantime, the cultivation of mini kiwis on Austrian soil has expanded considerably. Several producers and traders have decided in favor of the product and the soft fruit is now also an integral part of the seasonal fruit selection in food retail stores. "In principle, however, the product has not fully established itself. In my opinion, the degree of popularity among consumers is still too low."
According to Pankarter, fruit quality and therefore weather influences will be decisive for the possible market success in the coming years. "The quality that we bring to the market must simply be right. The biggest challenge of the near future, however, is climate change: "It is not the flowering, but the budding that can take place during the frosty April nights. Unfortunately, this can hardly be influenced."