“To what extent can we trust the authenticity of our fruit?”

Identifying fraudulent activities in agricultural markets is becoming a significant challenge, according to Vincenzo Salento, a consultant on the Italian market for WikiFarmer: “Practices that damage small and medium-scale farmers and buyers, such as origin mislabelling of fruit, mainly benefit the malicious actors that engage in these activities seeking to reap maximum profits. The kiwi market, especially that of southern European countries, has been especially affected by this phenomenon.”

“Italy was the largest kiwi producer in Europe and second largest worldwide in terms of volumes, until the 2021/22 season. Following the 2019/20 harvest campaign, the crop disease ‘moria’ caused Italian kiwi production to drop by over 100,000 metric tons, allowing Greek produce to dominate the European market.”

Source: I.Stat, after analysis

Not all Italian kiwi exporters are playing the game fairly, which is actually hurting the Italian brand, Salento explains. “The kiwi market globally is booming, yet growers of the 'green gold' variety are often not getting the recognition they deserve. This results from some malicious practices implemented by various players in the market, especially those operating in Italy, which is the epicentre of the European kiwi trade. These have been reported multiple times in the past and revolve around importing kiwi produce in bulk from other countries, primarily Greece and Spain, lightly processing it and then rebranding it under Italian labels before exporting them to other destination markets.”

The issue has been discussed at length by farmers from those countries with Wikifarmer, a go-to digital importer and exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables, that works closely with food production units and wholesalers. One can see it happening in the production and trade figures, Salento emphasizes: “As an example, Italy's significant loss in domestic production volumes in 2021 did not affect its overall export volumes for the year. Indeed, during the Kiwi harvest period, which typically runs from October to November, kiwi imports from Greece soared, covering the domestic shortfall, as can be seen in the graphs we’ve provided.”

Source: ISMEA mercati, after analysis

Source: ISMEA mercati, after analysis

It’s not just consumers that are being tricked by these practices, farmers are also losing out on their fair share of compensation, Salento explains. “These conditions harm both farmers and end buyers. Farmers are not compensated fairly for their quality products, selling cheaply to importers who achieve very high margins, while end buyers pay inflated prices for products. This situation exists only due to the information asymmetry in the markets, which harms both farmers and B2B buyers and perpetuates the situation. A 360-degree supply chain approach is necessary to ensure the much-needed fairness and transparency in agriculture’s future.”

Wikifarmer, a B2B marketplace in Europe, forces transparency in each transaction, preventing such practices, Salento says: “Producers face extensive vetting before joining the platform and then share product certifications such as IFS, GLOBALG.A.P and more. Customer reviews and secure payment processes ensure that illegitimate sellers are exposed and removed from the platform, and payment only takes place once the goods have been received and approved by the buyers. Commercial buyers can select products that best fit their needs and budgets, minimizing incidents of product fraud.”

“All in all, our model minimizes incidents of product fraud. This allows for trusting relationships to develop among stakeholders, so that commercial buyers can select products that best fit their quality needs and budgets, maximizing value across the supply chain not just for kiwis but all agricultural products,” Salento concludes.

For more information:
Vincenzo Salento
Tel: +39 3664078200
Email: vincenzo@wikifarmer.com

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