Export company Made in Blu says it has been granted official approval to send kiwifruit produced by two giants of the Italian fresh produce trade – Agrintesa and Apofruit – to clients in South Korea, opening the way for other Italian exporters to do the same, provided they meet the same strict protocol imposed by the Korean authorities.
The breakthrough follows what the company described as a "long and complex" bureaucratic process and gives Made in Blu the green light to organise shipments of the fruit under its own brand to what is one of the most promising emerging markets in Asia.
Italian kiwifruit exporters were first reported be on the verge of gaining access to the Korean market back in late 2011, after trade representatives revealed that talks aimed at removing existing phyosanitary barriers had brought them closer to achieving that breakthrough.
But, after Italy accepted Korea's proposed import regulations, administrative delays in Korea meant that the 2011/12 export season came and went without further significant progress being made.
For those companies set to benefit from this week's news, the wait has almost certainly been worthwhile.
"This is hugely satisfying," commented Furio Mazzoti, director of the Made in Blu Consortium. "I want to express my real and heartfelt gratitude to all those who committed themselves to achieving this important result."
Mazzotti reserved particular thanks for Franco Finelli and Paolo Solmi, plant protection and phytosanitary officials working on behalf of the region of Emilia Romagna, where Made in Blu, Agrintesa and Apofruit are based.
Finelli and Solmi recently hosted a visiting delegation of Korean inspectors, who were in Italy to firm up the details of a proposed import protocol.
Mazzotti also praised Simona Rubbi of Ferrara-based research and marketing agency Centro Servizi Ortofrutticoli (CSO), who took on the task of coordinating technical, administrative and diplomatic activities on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture in order to press for the market to be opened.
Korea represents a very important potential outlet for Made in Blu's kiwifruit programme into Asia, offering as it does a new opportunity to market premium-grade fruit produced according to the consortium's strict quallity standards to modern, large-scale retail customers in the country.
Last September, CSO organised a trade mission to Korea, enabling Italian fruit exporters to meet with retail buyers there.