The Italian pear harvest is again particularly disappointing this year. Alex Weitgruber, pear exporter and Managing Director of Vetter Italia Ltd, based in Lana (South Tyrol), reports that main variety Abate Fetel has suffered particularly catastrophic harvest losses. "If we look at the exportable class I goods, the latest figures show that there will be a 65% drop compared to 2022. For our company, this means a 50-60 percent drop in pear export volumes."
Italian pears are currently trading at very high prices, which has led to a more subdued demand. Among the 'winners' in this Italian pear crisis are Belgian and Dutch Conference pears.
Gloomy long-term forecasts for Italian pear cultivation
Weitgruber, who mainly supplies German export customers, is therefore seeing a weak pear year for the fourth year in a row. Among other things, there have been floods and storms this year, not just in the main growing region of Emilia-Romagna, but throughout Italy. Weitgruber: "Climate change is having a serious impact on the Abate Fetel and it is bringing many diseases with it. We now have the tree bugs under control to some extent, but in recent years there have been increasing problems with fungi that spoil the fruit. There are similar problems with the smaller pears such as Williams, Carmen and Santa Maria." The latter two varieties are already coming to an end seasonally. "We hope to be able to offer our most loyal export customers sufficient quantities of Abate Fetel by the beginning of March, i.e. by the start of the overseas season."
The fruit exporter is also concerned about the restriction of approved plant protection products. "I'm afraid that the Abate Fetel pear will only be a marginal product in a few years' time. According to current forecasts, Italian pear production will fall by 75 percent over the next five years. For me as an exporter, this means that I will be forced to reduce my customer base in order to be able to supply the remaining customers accordingly. You automatically lose your strength in the process, which is why it will be difficult to maintain your position in the future." He can only hope. Weitgruber: "We urgently need a pear variety that can better cope with the current climatic conditions."
Shortage of cauliflowers
In addition to pears, Vetter Italia also exports other fruit and vegetables from Italian orchards. "In the case of clementines, the current volumes are too large in relation to the demand. The first well-colored blood oranges of the popular Moro variety will be available in week 51. Vegetables are available, but at very high prices, which in turn is due to inflation. For large items such as kohlrabi and endive, we are 20 percent above last year's levels."
Cauliflower is also in short supply, being very expensive at the moment. "Similar to France, we also have a shortage of produce, which is why we are currently having to charge very high prices of around 20 euros/box. To make matters worse, most of the available produce is needed for the domestic market, which is why very little Italian cauliflower is being exported." The same applies to fennel, which was a strong export item in other years, Weitgruber explains. "Due to the heavy rainfall, there was too much water in the soil, which in turn had a negative impact on the fennel's shelf life."
Alex Weitgruber, a passionate pear exporter.
Images: Vetter Italia GmbH