Following seven years of concerted negotiation, South Korean has granted access to Italian kiwifruit imports in a deal which will help the Mediterranean country sustain recent solid growth in sales of the fruit in Asia.
"The opening of barriers to Italian kiwifruit in South Korea is an important step forward for Italian horticultral exports," commented Mario Catania, Italy's agriculture minister. "It has been a long and complex process that has allowed our country to enter a market which is expanding strongly."
Catania also praised the role played by ministry officials in conjunction with key industry players and diplomatic staff. "I am convinced that this is only the first step towards the entry of other Italian fresh products into this important Asian market," he added.
The decision, which came after South Korea's phytosanitary authorities authorised Italian kiwifruit's entry based on a new protocol, could potentially see fruit which is already on the water traded into the country, but it is more likely that exporters will focus on selling new-season product direct into the country from next November onwards.
According to recently published data, Italian kiwifruit production could benefit from a potentially good level of demand in the South Korean market.
Given that South Korea's own season occurs around the same time as Italy's, shipments may in fact not be arranged until later and possibly not before 2013, but the country's production currently only meets an estimated 30 per cent of overall national demand – something which augurs particularly well for the Italian trade.
Davide Vernocchi, president for fresh produce at Italian farming federation Fedagri-Confcooperative, agreed that the decision to lift South Korea's ban on Italian kiwifruit would potentially be of enormous benefit.
"It's an important decision which, even taking into account the notable distance between Italy and South Korea, opens up big opportunities for one of our principal horticultural products," he said.
Cristian Maretti, director of producer association Legacoop Agroalimentare in North Italy, added: "We hope that the opening of the South Korean market to Italian kiwifruit could also be a good sign for other fresh produce items, especially our apples and pears which continue to be blocked in the US."