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Italy: Political support needed to expand apple market

"Commercial dynamics are not always due to technical or logistical aspects - to access specific markets, political support and good negotiation are needed above all," reports Michael Grasser, Marketing Director for VI.P, Associazione delle Cooperative Ortofrutticole della Val Venosta.

"Just think about China. It is an immense market, and managing to acquire just a niche would mean being able to do business for decades. At the moment, however, Italian apples have yet to meet the requirements to access that market. Polish apples do. We are still at the preliminary stage, so it will be a while before we reach the phytosanitary protocol stage. In the meantime, we need the political support of our institutions. Logistics will be discussed after the first negotiations."

"What we can do now, is ask ourselves which are the most suitable varieties for the Asian markets. We are very interested in the Chinese market, and Asian markets in general, also because we have lost important markets such as Libya, Egypt and Algeria due to their domestic problems."

In the meantime, harvesting has ended for VI.P producers and General Director Josef Wielander explains that volumes are 20% below average due to frost in April. The total volume is 300,000 gross tons against last year's 360,000.

"Lower Val Venosta was the most affected by the frost, but the mild temperatures of the past few months meant quality was rather high. Golden Delicious acquired their typical 'little red face' and Gala, Red Delicious and Pinova have deep colours."

Sales and markets
"The first part of the sales campaign was activated between October and early November and was less aggressive. Due to the lower quantities available, we focused on the main markets and met their demands. Clients had a good reaction to this situation, as prices were satisfactory," explains Fabio Zanesco, Sales Manager for VI.P.

25% of Gala apples have been sold as well as 10% of Red Delicious, as planned. The situation is different for Golden Delicious, as the main channels are just now being activated. Lower volumes are expected for first-category produce, while more will definitely available for second-category produce.

Pinova will be commercialised from January 2017. Club variety sales channels have also been activated, starting with Kanzy® and Ambrosia (TM), while Envy (TM) will be available soon for selected distributors.

"We can say we are moderately optimistic for the next few weeks. There is still a lot to do, but the market seems to have found its balance."

Marketing and communication activities
"We set up a marketing and communication campaign to launch the new image of Val Venosta apples. The two key values of our brand, Naturalness and High-quality, are conveyed through two ladybirds, which had a positive impact on final consumers as well."

"We will focus mainly on social media and store activities, because they reflect our philosophy of a direct and clear communication and enable us to share useful information in real time."
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