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Citrus fruits are being purchased for juice processing

Orange season in Sicily faces a complex climatic scenario

The situation for Sicilian citrus growers is complex, as they continue to suffer from a prolonged drought that is not helping the already precarious commercial situation. Pietro Russo, a long-time citrus grower from Lentini (SR), discusses the situation and takes stock of the current season.

Pietro Russo

"We are in a new and unpredictable phase of the climate," says Russo, "with very high temperatures that have never lasted this long, and with an absolute lack of rainfall, which has created a situation that has never been seen before in our sector. The harvest has remained small for the most part and is largely destined for the processing industry. Indeed, the winter season seems to have almost disappeared. On a regular basis, we go from 5/6 degrees Celsius in the morning to 20/24 degrees in the afternoon; this is all something new that has caught us off guard and has left us unable to deal with the situation."

"Another factor of great concern for the continuation of the citrus season," adds the businessman, "is the quality of the late fruits. This is because a long period of abnormal heat and lack of rain is causing many problems, leading the peel to crack and making it impossible to sell."

"We have no idea what the case for the rest of the marketing campaign in the face of these conditions will be. It all has to do with a climatic situation that is disrupting and changing the entire citrus system in terms of production and consumption. There's also a lack of water in the reservoirs and wells. If there is no normalization of the climate, the scenario that will be created in the absence of water will certainly be catastrophic and will lead to the abandonment of a large number of citrus groves. We are very worried."

"Russo continues: "The commercial situation so far has been characterized by the weather, as we have seen. "Although the product was good from the organoleptic standpoint, with excellent pigmentation and good appearance, there was a lot of product that had to be rejected because there were a lot of skin cracks and, as I said, a lot of product with a small gauge. When it comes to exporting, we were able to explain this special situation to our trading partners, who accepted a smaller size compared to the standard. The foreign wholesale trade has also accepted a slight price increase, but this does not compensate for the larger percentage gap that has arisen. The most striking fact is that in Europe there is also an abnormal climatic situation, with temperatures that are very high for the period, which does not help the consumption of oranges, which is in decline almost everywhere in Europe."

"Another unpleasant situation," the expert points out, "is that many poorly organized operators, unable to place small-gauge goods on the domestic market, offer them to foreign retailers at greatly reduced prices, which also lowers the prices of good-gauge products. It would be better not to sell the non-compliant goods, but to allocate them to the processing industry. This would certainly generate the same revenue, but without devaluing the standard gauge product."

Meanwhile, the Sicilian Region has declared a state of natural disaster due to severe drought throughout the regional territory. Sicily is the only region in Italy - and one of the few in Europe - in a red zone due to a lack of water resources. The region will also purchase citrus fruits to be processed into juice and used for humanitarian and social solidarity purposes, for a total amount of 7.5 million euros. The action to support the citrus sector is provided for in this year's Finance Act and will enter its operational phase with the publication of the communication addressed to POs, citrus processing companies and individual citrus producers. The growers who will confer their produce to the processing companies will have to refer to the POs which, for this purpose, will be authorized to purchase the product from non-members."

Interested parties must meet the following eligibility requirements at the time of application. They must be registered with the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Handicrafts and Agriculture (CCIAA); they must have their operational and registered offices in the territory of the Region of Sicily; and they must comply with the anti-mafia certification. Each product and each stage of the supply chain must be produced in Sicily. Only raw materials produced in the region may be used. Applications, must be sent by 22 February 2024 to the email address:

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