Soc. Agr. Zito & Co. ready for the start of the early potato campaign

Sales of iceberg lettuce, cauliflower and pointed cabbage catching up in Italy

After the severe storm that hit Sicily at the beginning of February, supplies on the Italian vegetable market are tight and prices have risen. "The damage to greenhouse crops in the province of Ragusa is enormous, and lower temperatures mean that the product ripens at a slower pace, causing prices to rise when there is a shortage. This situation also affects our outdoor crops in the Syracuse region. The market for iceberg lettuce, cauliflower and pointed cabbage has completely rebounded," say Francesco and Simone Zito, head of cultivation and head of processing at Soc.Agr. Zito & Co.

Fennel is packed directly in the fields, with an average net weight of 13.5 kilograms for a box of 16

"The price of fennel has remained fairly stable, with a slight increase of between 10 and 15 cents per kilo since January. However, this price increase cannot compensate for what happened in the market until December last year," continue the Zito brothers. "At that time, the spring-like temperatures and high humidity caused numerous quality problems and accelerated ripening. In addition, consumption was limited." The same problems occurred with the cauliflower.

Cauliflower and pointed cabbage from the Sicilian company

There has been a major change in the market since January 2023. "A notable example is the pointed cabbage. Until December, we were basically operating below cost, but in January, prices skyrocketed. In fact, they doubled. That's partly because there was severe damage from bad weather in Portugal, where this variety of cabbage is widely grown. Demand for our pointed cabbage has been huge, especially from the Veneto region, and the product has really taken off."

“This year we cultivated fennel, celery, lettuce, green, white and purple cauliflower and other cabbage varieties in open fields," explains Francesco Zito. "Next year we will take a different approach, both in terms of production and sales. Our vegetables are sold locally, and we have affiliate programs with a supermarket chain, but costs keep going up, and profit margins are getting tighter."

Purple cauliflower

In a few days, the beginning of the early potato season              Due to the bad weather, major concerns have been raised about the harvest of early potatoes. "Fortunately, damages to early potatoes are not that big; we are talking about a loss of five percent. But for potatoes harvested at a later date, we are worried about the entire yield. This is because the wind has broken off several stems," explains Francesco Zito. "The harvest of the Arizona variety should start between March 10 and 15."

However, we are not in a hurry to harvest them so early, not only because of the crops, but also because of the sales," adds Simone Zito. "We harvest the potatoes 130 to 150 days after planting in order to have slightly larger and more mature tubers. Also, early potatoes sell best in spring weather. If you can reach the market by then, as soon as stocks of stored potatoes run low, you can get good deals."

Sample of early potatoes, 110 days after sowing

The two brothers, who run the farm with their father Tonino Zito and administrative manager Miriam, explain that early potatoes have become an expensive commodity. "In addition to general price increases at every stage of production, we had to pay 20-30 percent more for seed potatoes this year. We have to look for alternatives because we won't survive for long with these costs."

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