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Italy: Exotic fruit increasingly popular

Agricola Lusia specialises in the commercialisation of citrus fruit, but also trades exotic fruit - a testament to what has happened and is happening in Italy. 

"The sector is growing because Italian consumers are changing. On the one hand, the percentage of foreigners is increasing, on the other hand, Italians are looking for new healthy products."

Mangoes and avocados sold by Agricola Lusia.

"Ginger is the perfect example, as consumption boomed in the past couple of years thanks to its healthy properties." Up until a few years ago, the company sold only 30 tons a year, but now sells over 300 tons. "10 quintals used to be enough for two weeks, but now we trade 60 quintals a week. It is the perfect example of what it means to raise awareness as regards the properties of a product. Ginger used to be a niche product but has now reached almost mass consumption."

Mangoes sold by the Agricola Luisa.

A similar performance was also registered for avocados, as commercialisation has been growing by 10/12% a year. Now, over 400 tons are sold every year, just like mangoes. Together, they are the leading products commercialised by the company. "The leading fruit is avocados; mangoes come second because they have to compete with peaches during summer, which have a similar flavour but are cheaper."

Avocado sold by Agricola Luisa.

"Italian consumers have started to vary their diet. Retailers have noticed it as well, and are changing their supplies to offer produce of a higher quality. For example, they are focusing on Hass avocados or mango varieties that are not fibrous. They are changing their exotic fruit management and, while they used to prefer produce imported by sea, they are now focusing not so much on produce imported by air but rather on ready-to-eat products that have more accessible prices than the fruit imported by air and taste better than that imported by sea."

It is interesting to see how retailers are choosing the opposite path than wholesale markets, which tend to prefer products imported by air.

Processing at Agricola Lusia.

Demand for exotic fruit is very lively a few days before Christmas (except for limes, which are more popular in summer for cocktails). But demand is also expected to increase in the medium-long period, especially for avocados, mangoes and ginger.

"Pineapples have reached their peak and consumption is not expected to increase any more. But there is still plenty of room for the growth of avocados, mangoes and ginger - the market has yet to express its full potential. The situation is a little different for papayas as, to have high-quality produce - one needs to choose those imported by air or the Formosa variety, with rather big fruits that are sold singularly."

Ginger at Agricola Lusia.

Agricola Luisa imports mangoes from Brazil and Peru, avocados from Israel, Peru, Chile and South Africa, ginger from China and Brazil and limes from Brazil and Mexico. It is interesting to notice how procurement is getting more complex as demand increases. "There have been gaps in the past few years, which are actually caused by demand rather than supply. For example, avocado volumes are lacking because Israel is passing from the Ettinger to the Pinkerton variety. The only fruit that is always available are mangoes."
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