A cold start to the spring followed by excessively humid weather over recent weeks has led to complications for the Italian fruit industry this summer, according to a representative of grower cooperative Apofruit Italia.
Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal at The London Produce Show and Conference held from June 6-8, commercial department representative Andrea Raggi said the stone fruit sector in particular was experiencing problems.
“For stone fruit, we have had a very bad spring,” he said.
“Overall the quality of the product is not very good because as well as the cold spring we are coming into this season with high humidity, which is causing quality problems and affecting the shelf life.
“We are putting a lot of effort into getting the fruit out to our clients in good conditions, but sometimes when it arrives it is not of the same quality as when it leaves.”
He explained that there was widespread damage by cracking of the fruit due to the cold weather experienced around Europe in late February and early March. A spate of freezing weather swept across much of the continent, bringing unseasonal snowfall and affecting a large range of fruit crops over numerous countries.
The unfavorable weather conditions have also resulted in higher storage costs for growers, he said.
He explained the situation was most severe for apricots, whose production he expected to drop by around 40 per cent year-on-year. For peaches and nectarines, he estimated a reduction of around 20-30 per cent.
As for cherries, he said there was not likely to be much of a volume decline, but the issues were related to quality.
“What we need is a good season in terms of weather – heat, and not too much humidity,” he said.
In general he said market conditions were relatively strong for stonefruit at present, with good prices.
Raggi also said the table grape crop was set to be up slightly year-on-year, but as the harvests were still a few weeks away it remained to be seen how the quality would turn out.
“So far we have not seen damage on table grapes because the crop has been quite delayed,” he said.
The representative also commented that Apofruit growers are focusing heavily on investing in new varieties of numerous fruit commodities.
“For example, in apricots we are planting new varieties with a strong orange color and lots of flavor, because the final consumer is putting much more attention on the quality and taste of the fruit,” he said.
“We are also investing in new varieties of peaches and nectarines, but the biggest success we have had is with table grapes. We have been betting on seedless varieties…that cover our entire commercial window from mid-July until the end of October.”