The 2021/22 strawberry campaign isn't over yet at OP Zuccarella, a cooperative located in Scanzano Jonico (Matera). "Three hectares are still producing compared to the 30 at the season's peak, yet we still manage to ship 6-8 pallets to the general markets and big retail chains every day. Quotations for 2 kg crates hover between €10 and €12," reports sales manager Giuseppe Zuccarella.
"We are one of the few companies from Metaponto to produce strawberries in greenhouses at the moment. We are experimenting with new fridge-stored and remontant varieties, transplanted in March, so we can extend the sales calendar by another 2 months. We believe harvesting can continue until early August. The idea of supplying fresh strawberries throughout the year is becoming achievable thanks to innovative technologies and the experience gained over the years. Orders are still coming in despite the vast catalog of summer produce. We want strawberries to become one of those fruits that are not season-related, and that can therefore be purchased throughout the seasons."
"The torrid weather is making itself heard over the past few weeks, with the high humidity making management harder. We have removed mulching films and placed shading nets to avoid scalding problems, and we have reprogramed irrigation cycles. With such high temperatures, plants stress and tend to produce lower yields."
"We employed 25 operators for harvesting, most of which from Africa. The lack of labor remains a problem any time of year. Operations start at 5 and finish at around 9:30. Strawberries are picked when they are not extremely ripe to facilitate transport. If these heat waves were to pass, we would be able to work even better."