From a visit to the Giuseppe Panetta company in Apulia, it emerged that the most interesting share of the market for citrus fruit is the early and late period, as there is less produce available. The company has two productive centres, covering around 400 hectares in Apulia and 100 in Basilicata.
"Our land in Basilicata is quite early, so it complements the crops in Apulia. We have inherited part of the property by some distant relatives, the rest we bought as new investments," explains owner Giuseppe Panetta.
Giuseppe Panetta (centre), with father Michele and mother Maria Teresa.
They mainly cultivate citrus fruit and seedless grapes. "Thanks to the support of the best technicians, in 2004 we also started to widen our variety range introducing early and late Caffin/Oronules and Hernandina clementines sold between October and February. Then we go on with Mandared and with late Navel oranges in May.
The company has in fact invested in 15 different citrus species and cultivars, which is quite unusual in Italy.
Francesco Perri and Giuseppe Panetta in front of a Mandared tree.
"There are 50 hectares of early clementines, 10 hectares of common clementines and 40 hectares of late clementines and tangerine-like fruit. Then we also have 30 hectares of oranges". The company is not yet in full production, but at the moment around 2,500 tons of fruit are produced per year.
This season started with Satsuma Miyagawa around September 17th and continued with Caffin/Oronules clementines in early October.
Giuseppe Panetta next to Caffin/Oronules clementine trees.
"Last year, a flood caused €200,000 worth of damage, but luckily there were no repercussions on this year. In general, yields tend to increase year after year. There have been no major quotation changes since 2007, as prices tend to depend on grades and quality."
"Our objective is to develop very early and late varieties as well as organic produce," explains agronomist Francesco Perri.
As regards fruit valorisation, Panetta says that "we would need to make our produce speak more for itself. We cannot compete with Spain in this sense. We should also introduce more small packets, ideal for snacks, as consumers would mind less about the price."
Conversion of an obsolete cultivar with very early clementines.
The company has been part of AOP Armonia for three years. "The effort we put into it with agronomist Francesco Perri and our main partners is finally paying off, especially in terms of variety range and sales calendar," says Marco Eleuter, sales manager for AOP Armonia.
"Starting with an excellent product already in early October is very important in terms of profits, for those producers who invested a lot and for those clients who are willing to help promote domestic produce."
Marco Eleuteri, Giuseppe Panetta and Francesco Perri.
According to Eleuteri though, there may be a few problems such as "the Russian ban and the trend of other popular fruit such as pears, grapes and apples, as their prices are much lower than last year and could affect citrus fruit prices. Despite this, we will go on with the offer segmentation process - in addition to the PGI ranges, we confirmed 3 packaging lines with distributor brands and a new one destined exclusively to a single Italian distributor. We will also promote our Premium DolceClementina brand both in Italy and abroad, especially in Germany."
As regards Mandared, they have peen presented at Fruit Logistica 2014 under the DolceMandarò brand. "The first feedback was positive and we are now waiting for more concrete results."
"As regards this year's quantities, we should handle around 6,000 tons of clementines and 2,000 tons of Navel oranges. 90% of the produce is destined to Italian (70%) and foreign (30%) retailers."