The European citrus season is slowly gaining momentum. The warm weather in Italy is still delaying deliveries, but soon it should really start to get going, says Nicoló Sparacino from Biofruit Trading. "So far, the quantities look good, with similar volumes as last year. But it is still too warm to harvest. In Sicily, temperatures are still at 25°C; at those temperatures, you're off to the beach, not picking oranges."
As soon as the nights get a little cooler and the color and sweetness of the oranges have developed sufficiently, he can start harvesting. "It should start in two weeks at the latest. The same applies to clementines." The marketing of the Sicilian lemons has already begun.
With the overseas season coming to an end and great demand, the lemons are a precious commodity: "Unfortunately, the lemons are still somewhat green, so their color is not yet ideal. But they do have a good taste, and this must be communicated to the market. In contrast to oranges, there are varieties, such as the Verdello lemon, which are already ripe even with a green skin. However, consumers clearly prefer the yellow lemons."
In Germany, there are lemons from overseas all year round, according to Sparacino: "However, during the European season the volumes are much smaller. When Italy, Greece and Spain are on the market, there is little room for overseas products. The biggest competitor for Italian citrus fruits still is Spain."
The Coronavirus also has an influence on the market. Renewed gastronomy closures are causing logistical problems, although the borders for goods are still open: "Due to the lack of demand from the hospitality sector, demand is much lower. We can't fill up trucks and so some transport companies are unable to provide their service. Other shipments do not fill the trucks completely, which significantly increases transport costs." A similar problem is seen with air freight worldwide.
In addition to the international trade in Sicilian citrus fruits, Sparacino also manages Terra Verde, a Sicilian supermarket in Berlin. "This retail branch is doing very well, just as it did in the spring."
At the last lockdown, Sparacino launched a fruit crate service to support the local community. This service is now picking up speed again: "Many customers are still interested in our mixed crates. Therefore we would like to continue to offer this service in the future, independent of the Coronavirus. With the crates we can support our customers on the one hand, while preventing food waste at the same time."