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Interview with Michelangelo Rivoira

"Dangerous to focus only on the Hayward variety"

"For the future of kiwi cultivation, it might be dangerous to focus only on the Hayward variety, as its production is increasing everywhere. If we manage to co-exist with the bacteriosis problem, which seems likely, Italy and Europe will have to deal with important volumes, so we better start growing kiwis that are suitable for the Far Eastern markets," explains Michelangelo Rivoira (in the photo below), from Gruppo Rivoira. 

"Greece will no doubt pose a problem in years like this one where considerable volumes of Hayward are expected. We are already dealing with the first difficulties and the campaign has not even started yet. At the moment, we are marketing golden kiwis and prices are good due to the limited volumes available."

There are many golden kiwi clones that seem very interesting. "We will have to focus more on this variety in the future, although we are not sure of its resistance to bacteriosis, which is currently being tested. Gruppo Rivoira is an exclusive producer of early Dorì kiwis, which is very much appreciated in the Middle East."

In addition to the yellow variety, Gruppo Rivoira is also experimenting on a red variety, with excellent organoleptic qualities but whose resistance and shelf-life still has to be tested.

As regards Nergi baby kiwis, the entrepreneur feels they are suitable for family businesses as they are destined to a niche market. "They would not work for Rivoira because they have ripening and storing problems and must be sold locally."

"In the past few years, we have noticed how producers are abandoning kiwis and replacing them with apples, leading to an excess of produce available. Varietal improvement is the only way to convince producers to come back.

The facility. (Photo by Gruppo Rivoira).

Export - which countries are the most promising?
The restrictive measures and liquidity problems in Egypt persist, just like the safety problems in North African countries.

"It is quite difficult to export into these countries, but the North-African market is still important to Italy. Our produce reaches Egypt in just 4-5 days and, with the fact that sea transport costs less than road transport, it is actually cheaper to ship fruit to North African than to Germany. Last but not least, we must remember that red apples are the most popular fruit in Egypt after bananas, so they are a commodity. Our politicians should define agreements to make trade simpler."

Rivoira believes that the choice to set up a Mac Fruit Attraction in Egypt in 2015 will have a positive influence on Egyptian domestic policies and thus also on trade. "The closer we get to these markets, the easier it will be to get more work. First of all, though, we need safety problems to be resolved."

The Iranian market is also very interesting, as the middle class has money to spend. "Of course we should hurry and get to this market before others do. The French are usually quicker to react, just look at how they dealt with the phytosanitary question in China! China is another important market, but we do not have agreements in place at the moment."

"China could be an extraordinary market, as the potential is amazing. We need an agreement for apples just like the one we have in place for kiwis. China in fact lacks the varietal range we have. It is true, it is a great apple and kiwi producer, but its does not have the right facilities and equipment to store the fruit."

The apple harvest
"As summer was very hot this year, yields and quality were lower than 2014. This was especially true for red apples. For what concerns Gala, which is a summer variety and should stand the heat better, quality was good and prices are satisfactory. RedChief had large grades and therefore storing problems."

The quantities of Ambrosia were satisfactory and sugar contents are higher than 2014. "How well they will deal with storing is still uncertain, but the technology developed should ensure good results despite initial conditions."

The new processing warehouse
The building of the new warehouse is proceeding as scheduled - the connection between the warehouse and the pre-grading area should be completed in March 2016 and everything should be ready by August 2016.

The building site. (Photo by Gruppo Rivoira).

"We still need to test everything. There will be 2 warehouses and 3 processing areas. Apples will be transferred from the 56 storage units to warehouse 1 (18,000 bins at 0°C and 98% RH) and then to the pre-grading area. Afterwards, they will go back to warehouse 1 to be transferred to the processing and packaging areas. They will then be transferred to warehouse 3 (2,000 pallets at 2°C and 45% RH) to be loaded on the lorries (120 pallets/h)."

(Photo by Gruppo Rivoira).

Michelangelo said he is very satisfied with the work so far. The uprooting of kiwi and peach orchards and their replacement with apple orchards led to an increase in apple production. His agronomists had estimated that, in 2016, production would reach 70,000 tons, so the group had to choose between building a new facility similar to the one that already exists, or building a new high-tech one."

The new warehouse.

Despite the huge investment made on the apple processing facility, Michelangelo hopes that many will go back to growing kiwis, as Piedmont is particularly suitable for it.

Gruppo Rivoira/Kiwi Uno

Via Mattona 174/C
Verzuolo (CN)
Tel.: +39 0175 280811

Author: Emanuela Fontana

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