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Martin Pinzger, general director at VIP:

"Just like any other business, we need to produce what the market demands"

"Our business has been growing constantly over the part 10 years. We currently boast around 5,300 hectares of apple orchards, with a slight increase in the orchards in the upper valley," explains Martin Pinzger, general director at VIP-Associazione delle Cooperative Ortofrutticole della Val Venosta. "However the number of partners has dropped from the 1,637 of 2013 (1,498 integrated control, 139 organic) to the 1,465 of 2023 (1,175 integrate control, 290 organic), with an average of just over 3 hectares per producer."

In addition, VIP destines 200 hectares to the cultivation of around 3,000 tons of vegetables, 300-500 tons of apricots, 500 tons of cherries, 400 tons of strawberries from Val di Martello and a small niche of currants, raspberries and blueberries.

Martin Pinzger, general director of VIP

Harvesting is almost over
"We still have to finish with envy, our last variety. Harvesting has just started and will end by mid November. In terms of production, over the years we have seen overall values fluctuate - 347,412 tons in 2021, 297,276 tons in 2022 and, for 2023, the estimate is 345,032 tons. Of this last figure, 48,103 are organic, making us the leaders at European level. On the Italian market, we sell 60% of traditional apples and 20% of organic ones."

When it comes to varieties, Golden Delicious is the leading one with an estimated 173,201 tons for this campaign after the all-time low of the past season. Red Delicious and Gala follow at an estimated quantity of 27,179 and 18,740 tons, respectively. As for the organic produce, Gala occupies the leading position with a 2023 estimate of 15,080 tons, followed by Golden Delicious (10,745 estimated tons) and Pinova (7,112 estimated tons).

2020-2030 strategic plan
"Just like any other business, we need top produce what the market demands. But it is not easy in our case, because apple trees take years to become fully productive. Anyway consumers do not change their preferences overnight when it comes to apples, so we manage to plan and work on new projects. That's why our varietal strategy spans ten years."

In 2013, the development of club apples in Val Venosta was represented by a 0.3% of Kanzi. Then projects such as Ambrosia, envy, Kissabel, Yello, Cosmic Crisp and SweeTango were added and, for 2025, we are expecting 84.3% traditional apples and 16% of club varieties. "We have no intention of developing further varietal projects, but we will focus on the existing ones that work."

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"When it comes to integrated control, we currently destine 55% to Golden Delicious, a variety we specialize in. In 2030, the percentage will drop to 48-49%. We are the Italian leaders when it comes to Red Delicious and we export it to Scandinavia, India and, in limited quantities, to Brazil and Central America. Gala is the most popular apple in the world outside of China. Fuji also forms part of the assortment and Pinova remains a product for the second part of the season. Club varieties will be developed further over the next few years, especially Cosmic Crisp, Ambrosia, envy and Kanzi".

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The situation is entirely different when it comes to the organic production. "Gala is the protagonist. It used to be a summer apple for which commercialization would end in January up until 20-25 years ago. Now we manage to supply it all year round and Switzerland is a good market. Its percentage is expected to increase in 2030. Among the resistant varieties that are very appealing for producers we find Bonita, Topaz and Natyra, which will be given more space in the future. The organic production of Golden Delicious will be downsized, as only few markets consume such variety, including Italy and Spain."

The director then stresses how, over the next few years, VIP will continue to focus on the line of apples grown without weed killers. "The project started in 2019 and involves 150 members."

The situation is different from last year
"Sales started well. The situation is completely different than last year. Considering the lower presence of summer fruits, the high temperatures enabled a good consumption of apples anyway and, unlike last year, there were fewer apples from overseas and stocks finished in Europe. In addition, the economy is slightly better than in the fall of 2022 and the quality of the apples is generally better, so there is less pressure to sell immediately and below prices. Starting prices are therefore more interesting than last year," comments Kurt Ratschiller, sales manager at VIP.

envy apples owned by a VIP producer

"There have been no considerable issues so far. We noticed it already in Madrid where, unlike last year, the atmosphere seemed optimistic. However we are worried about the situation in Israel and Egypt: two markets where we will definitely not have the possibilities we had in the past. The economic situation in Egypt is not entirely new, but it remains unresolved. In addition, we have noticed the US are stronger on the Indian market this year and will definitely represent a considerable competitor. After all, we must say there are 10% less Red Delicious compared with last year, so, we will have less pressure."

Kurt Ratschiller, sales manager at VIP

The latest WAPA estimates report dropping volumes for apples. "The situation is varied: we will reach the estimates of red and two-color varieties, and we will have slightly more Golden Delicious than estimated. We are talking about almost 340 thousand tons in total, approximately 50% of which are Golden Delicious. We are generally rather pleased with the quality: this will definitely not be a year of large apples and we are seeing how Golden Delicious are slightly more greenish than last year all over Europe."

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