This year’s Italian pear season has started promisingly, according to Albano Bergami, vice-president of interprofessional organisation OI Pera, which represents more than half of Italy’s fresh pear production and brings together leading marketers of the fruit including Alegra, Apofruit, Mazzoni, Naturitalia and Unacoa.
Reflecting on the relative lack of product in the European market – forecast at 2.5m tonnes, EU production is 8 per cent lower than the three-year average – Bergami said the market was rewarding suppliers that could provide high-quality fruit as the season got underway.
Italy, in contrast, is set to produce around 5 per cent more fruit than it did last year at 719,000 tonnes (including a 12 per cent increase in Abate Fetel), bringing it back into line with the average figure for 2014-2016.
“The start has been a lively one, which allows that first and fundamental link in the chain to generate income after a few years that were not entirely positive,” he commented.
“Summer pear prices are good,” he continued, “despite some problems of overlapping with other types of fruit, which may have slowed down sales.”
Pear producers in Italy have had to contend with a widespread drought this year as well as the driest spring on record for more than 60 years, but according to Bergami the conditions have in fact worked in the industry’s favour, aside from pushing irrigation costs higher.
“The volumes are stable or even up and the quality is really exceptional,” he added. “The lack of rain has increased the fruit’s sugar yield, making all varieties particularly sweet.
“As a result, we expect sales to increase especially from September onwards, a period which traditionally favours pear consumption.”
However, Valentino di Pisa, president of the Italian fresh produce wholesalers’ federation Fedagromercati, said there was a slight concern about sizing.
“The summer pear market hasn’t started as brilliantly as last year, but there is enthusiasm in the country, especially for the Abate [Fetel] variety," he said. “At the moment demand is good. It remains to be seen if the smaller sizes will have any kind of effect as we go forward. "
Both Bergami and Di Pisa were speaking ahead of FuturPera, the international trade fair for the pear sector which takes place on 16-18 November in Ferrara.
Additional reporting by Raffaella Quadretti