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Bernhard Ramminger of OPST on the distribution and export of Styrian apples:

"In view of the drop in earnings in other European countries, we see good export opportunities for the Styrian gala"

After a subdued first half of the season, the Styrian apple industry is now preparing for what is traditionally the strongest sales phase of the marketing season. "We have now been able to market about 20-25 percent of our volumes. However, we are known for our long-term storage and have clearly focused on later marketing over the years. Although price increases are the order of the day in grocery stores, past producer prices have been too low for us to cover the significant additional costs in production and storage. Despite inflation, however, apples are still being accessed, which is why we are cautiously optimistic with regard to the second half of the season," says Bernhard Ramminger (r) of the Styrian producer cooperative OPST Ltd.

Pome fruit processing

Due to the hot summer, Styrian fruit growers also started the harvest particularly early this year. "Despite the drought, fruit qualities and caliber were very pleasing overall. We can only irrigate about 20% of our plants, so it was all the more surprising that the fruit sizes were largely okay. We were also particularly helped by the mild spring without frost, as in previous years." Ramminger points out the varietal differences here. "With the Elstar and Jonagold varieties, we had problems with storability. The Styrian Gala, on the other hand, demonstrates good quality and shelf life, and we see good sales opportunities there for export in view of the yield losses in other European countries."

OPST Ltd is one of the largest producer cooperatives in Austria in terms of pome fruit and is considered a strong alliance behind the two brands Frisch-saftig-steirisch (conventional) and Von Herzen Biobauern (organic). In addition to supplying Austrian food retailers, a substantial part of the profits is exported abroad via EVA Handels Ltd. "Nowadays, 70-80 percent of the organic pome fruit in domestic markets comes from our growers. Certain varieties, such as Gala, are now available twelve months a year from Styrian cultivation. Given that production and domestic demand have grown evenly over the years, I do not expect any problems this year either. How the export market will develop is difficult to predict at this point in time."

Strategic course
In the medium to long term, OPST Ltd's range of grades will undergo a comprehensive restructuring. Says Ramminger, "We will reduce the acreage for Golden Delicious and Jonagold bit by bit. Meanwhile, we are aiming to gradually increase the cultivation of our Club apples, which now account for 20 percent of the total volume, to 30 percent. It is worth mentioning that the varieties Golden, Idared and Jonagold will be gradually replaced by young Kanzi plants, which will come into full yield in the coming years. Our range of varieties is rounded off by interesting niches, such as the children's apple Rockit, which scores points for its attractive appearance and excellent shelf life. With this variety, we want to win over tomorrow's consumers for the Styrian apple."

The OPST company premises in the heart of Styria

Joint marketing offensive
In order to generate a more intensive perception for the Styrian apple on the part of consumers, the renowned Styrian apple marketers have launched a joint marketing initiative, which will also be presented at Fruit Logistica. "Under the motto 'Eat an apple, don't forget', we want to bring the regional origin of the apple more to the fore, especially in the larger cities. In the coming years, we will roll out this marketing concept further."

Images: OPST Ltd.

Visit the company at Fruit Logistica: hall 20, A-53.

For more information:
Bernhard Ramminger
OPST Obst Partner Steiermark GmbH
Wollsdorf 71
8181 St. Ruprecht/Raab
Tel: +43 3178 2212-0 

VON HERZEN Biobauern GmbH
Harl 73
8182 Puch / Weiz
Tel: +43 3177 2201 4000

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