The current market situation for walnuts from specialized farms shows aspects that are entirely new compared to the recent past. This is due to the fact Italian production is increasing, with yields per surface unit as much as 30% above average, and to the fact US production is also increasing but no longer has China as an outlet, meaning the produce reaches Europe at low prices. What is more, the pandemic has reduced the purchasing power of consumers.
"It is not an easy year, although quality is excellent. Compared to a normal year and for the reasons mentioned, there is still produce in warehouses, which we are not used to. However, the high quality of it means it can be stored for the next few months as well," explains Davide Quinto, director of Nogalba, a company with almost 200 hectares of walnut groves.
Walnuts can be sold all year round, when stored properly - i.e. with little light and in insulated environments. "What is more, consumers should know walnuts can be frozen as they have a low water content and a good fatty component. They do not 'freeze', but they maintain their initial characteristics for a long time."
The domestic production is not sufficient to meet demand, but foreign competition is so aggressive in terms of volumes and prices that domestic walnuts must "elbow" their way in.
"We know that the big retail chain and consumers themselves prefer purchasing Italian walnuts, also because importing them from overseas is not eco-friendly. At the same time, however, walnuts from California have low prices, also because production specifications are less strict than the European ones, meaning US producers can obtain higher yields at lower prices. It is clear how, due to the crisis, there are consumers who pay more attention to prices, which penalizes Italian high quality."
It is also true that most consumers know very little or nothing about the work it takes to obtain high-quality produce. "But this lack of knowledge is partly our fault, as we have never communicated enough. I believe we should get organized to make consumers aware of all the peculiarities of our production chain, including the environmental value of our production protocols."