Made-in-Italy tropical fruits, it’s boom

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Made in Italy tropical fruits, the new frontier of Italian agribusiness. Climate change and rising temperatures favor the ‘naturalization’ of bananas, mangos, avocados and other typical tropical crops in the beautiful country. Especially in the South, Sicily and Calabria leading the way.

In just 5 years, the few hectares planted with tropical fruits have become more than 500, a 60-fold increase,’ Coldiretti’s report highlights.

Coldiretti, first report on tropical fruits Made in Italy

Sicily is the first Italian region to stand out for the cultivation of different avocado and mango varieties in the countryside between Messina, Mount Etna and Acireale. But also passion fruit, black zapote (similar to persimmon, of Mexican origin), sapodilla (from which latex is also obtained) and lychee, the small Chinese fruit that resembles muscat grapes.

Young farmers are the key players in this innovation, which is also worth converting abandoned land where citrus was once harvested. Oranges and lemons victims of globalization, always waiting for new support measures.

Calabria is the second region in Italy devoted to the cultivation of tropical fruits and vegetables. Here, in addition to mango, avocado, and passion fruit, they grow ‘thay’ eggplant (Thai variant of the Mediterranean cultivar), macadamia (fine nuts, both of which taste like almond and hazelnut), and even sugarcane. Annona, another typical fruit of South American countries, is now so widespread on the coasts that it is also used to make jams.

Made in Italy tropical fruits, consumers appreciate

The success of Made in Italy tropical fruits seems guaranteed. The preference for the Italian origin of foods and the increased trust in official domestic public controls-which increasingly characterizes consumer choices-also favors sales of these fruits.

Consumption of exotic fruits, after all, has also increased in Italy. +17% in the decade 2007-2016, up to 840 thousand tons/year. At the top of the list remain bananas, which Italy has been importing for centuries and still account for nearly 80 percent of total demand.

Mangoes and avocados, which entered the ISTAT basket in 2018, are the new promise. In Europe, demand is growing in double digits with increases in 10 years of 146 percent (avocado) and 56 percent (mango). (1)

Italy origin on tropical fruits could act as a flywheel. According to a Coldiretti-Ixè survey, more than six in 10 Italians (61 percent) would buy Italian bananas, mangoes, and avocados instead of foreign ones if they had them available. And 71 percent of citizens would be willing to recognize its greater value, given the increased guarantees in terms of food safety (with special regard to pesticide residues, quality and freshness, and social impact.

The preference for tropical-Italian-according to the first farmers’ confederation in Europe-is also explained by the shorter distance of the crops from the places of consumption and the harvesting of the fruits at a stage closer to natural ripening. Not to mention increased confidence in the quality of domestic agricultural production, including for reasons related to its sustainability.

Italy is at the top of worldfood safety with the lowest number of agri-food products with irregular chemical residues (0.8 percent), a share 1.6 times lower than the European Union average (1.3 percent) and as many as 7 times lower than that of non-EU countries (5.5 percent),’ Coldiretti points out.

Some clouds, however, cloud the horizon. The innovative capacity of Italian enterprises ‘ttoo often, however, it is hindered by an organizational, infrastructural, and diplomatic lag that has prevented Italy from catching up with the recovery in demand abroad, with a slump in fresh fruit and vegetables exported in 2018 of 11 percent in quantity and 7 percent in value, compared to the previous year‘, says Coldiretti President Ettore Prandini.

Public investment in infrastructure and logistics is needed, we need ‘efficient transportation on the rail line and airport hubs for goods that will enable us to get our products quickly from the north to the south of the country and then to every corner of Europe and the world.’

Notes

(1) SEE https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/tutti-pazzi-i-frutti-tropicali-e-cosi-mango-e-avocado-entrano-paniere-istat-AENVVUlE

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".