The long-established business relations and friendship over the past fifteen years between Agrumi-Gel, a Sicilian citrus derivatives industry, and Sumitomo Corporation Foods Group facilitated a meeting between the Japanese multinational's delegation, the Etna's Business Network and the PGI Etna Lemon Consortium. The objective is aimed at promoting in an international context the supply chain of PGI Etna Lemon juice by-products.
"The added value of this unique Sicilian lemon - highly appreciated in the fresh market - is also to structure an organic supply chain of derivatives obtained from it. This is done with a view to creating commercial outlets to increase its visibility on international markets," says Salvatore Imbesi manager of Agrumi-Gel, a well-known Sicilian brand specializing in the processing of citrus, pomegranate, prickly pear and summer fruits.
"Promoting the territory's biodiversity and traditional agronomic practices; sharing strategic ideas, fostering aggregation, focusing product offerings and overcoming the fragmentation of our production system, keeping in mind that we are not going anywhere alone. Being unified in purpose will enable us to gain critical mass, have greater bargaining agency, rationalize costs, optimize resources and shorten the supply chain, but above all, be reliable with regard to our trading partners," say the members of the PGI Etna Lemon business network.
It is with this perspective that the Etna's Business Network has taken the first steps to establish a partnership with the Sicilian Agrumi-Gel, an industry specialized in the processing of citrus derivatives. The Etna's Business Network is committed to conferring all product destined for industrial processing, while retaining a mutual commitment with Agrumi-Gel to support and promote the juice chain of this citrus fruit. It is fundamental to protect the product from the competition of lemon juice that arrives from foreign markets, without any guarantee of traceability and healthiness.
In 2020, the PGI Etna Lemon was inscribed in the register of protected geographical indications by the European Union. The organoleptic characteristics of the fruit are strongly influenced by the proximity of the Ionian Sea and the presence of the Etna Volcano. Thanks to favorable temperatures, lemon cultivation has spread over the centuries along the Etna coastal strip and in the immediate hills behind it, in an area between the Alcantara River to the north and the northern border of the Catania municipality to the south.
"The Japanese delegation visited farms where the PGI Etna Lemon is grown and saw the terraces where the land is located, a location that makes it necessary to harvest the fruit by hand. They showed much interest in this lemon produced with the 'water stress forcing' technique. Specifically, they became curious about the three flowers that characterize the species, of which they saw three fruits growing at the same time. Indeed, the peculiarity of this citrus fruit is its constant production, to the point that it turns out to be the only lemon in summer production, thus at a time when the traditional lemon production in Italy is absent."
Verdello juice has shown, from laboratory tests, higher concentrations of vitamin C, total flavonoids and phenolic compounds than even the other seasonal crops. The practice of forcing means that excellent summer lemons can be available the following season, taking advantage of this third induced flowering that is caused by the resumption of irrigation. The superior nutraceutical qualities that characterize this specific seasonal lemon are comparable to a superfood fruit in terms of functional food/ nutraceuticals. More specific aspects in this direction have been extensively described in the scientific research carried out by CREA-OFA of Acireale(CT): "Qualitative and Nutraceutical Aspects of Lemon Fruits Grown on the Mountainsides of Mount Etna" published in Food Research International n.74, April 2015 Elsevier B.V. (See research paper).
"Currently," concluded the producer members of the Etna's Business Network, "we are engaged in the last part of the sales campaign of the Primofiore lemon, which we expect to end at the end of March, when we will begin the harvest of the spring lemon called Bianchetto. The latter is a typical summer fruit that, together with Verdello, constitutes one of the most valuable crops of our lemon groves. The organic productions of our Etna lemon are appreciated especially abroad, thanks to the presence of consumers who are particularly careful about healthy and eco-friendly aspects."
For more information:
Etna's Terra dei Limoni
95024 Acireale (CT)