Zespri Gold Italy

According to the China – Italian Foreign Trade Agency, China’s total volume of fresh fruit and vegetable imports grew 9 per cent during the first six months of 2020. This greatly benefitted Italian fruit and vegetables exports, which increased by 74 per cent during the same period.

But while Italy accounts for a modest 1 per cent of exports to China, the continued growth has given many in Italy’s fresh produce industry reason to be optimistic.

Renzo Piraccini, president of Macfrut, is one who sees the tremendous potential Europe has to offer China. Opening the second day of the Macfrut Digital conference, Piraccini outlined the goals Macfrut has set itself in targeting China.

“We have set ourselves the goal of creating a logistics hub in Northeast Italy for Chinese agri-food products intended for the European market and [we want to] turn the platform into a hub for exporting fruits and vegetables to China,” said Piraccini.

“It is a great opportunity and we must seize it if we are to further expand this fruit and vegetable market, since 86 per cent of products are intended for Europe. Adequate infrastructure is essential in order to achieve internationalisation.”

The numbers presented by Gianpaolo Bruno, director of ICE-Agenzia China - Italian Foreign Trade Agency, support Piraccini’s goal.

“The Chinese market is very vast and diverse. The numbers are impressive: last year, 195m tonnes of fruit and 200m tonnes of horticultural products were produced in China,” explained Bruno.

“China’s imports are on the rise and are now at US$13bn, with Italy up by 20 per cent with US$26m in 2019.”

Bruno noted officials were working on signing new protocols in order to expand the range of products Italy can export to China. Italy is a leading producer of kiwifruit, oranges, lemons, and hazelnuts which are already exported to China.

Ma Hongtao, general manager of the Agricultural Trade Promotion Centre (ATPC), the promotional body of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, focused on the theme of the Silk Road.

“China and Italy have a long-standing history of trade. We have a new mission: to rebuild a new, modern Silk Road as a bridge to connect two distant countries, Europe and China, and the fruit and vegetable sector is a great start to this process,” Hongtao outlined to the Macfrut Digital attendees.