A good harvest is expected this year for Val Venosta’s organic apples, whose high quality is maintained by regular controls from VIP’s organic quality department

“If it says organic on the label, it must be organic on the inside,” says Val Venosta. Which is why constant controls and testing are essential to ensure the quality and food safety of its organic produce, the company states.

Such is the responsibility of the organic quality department at VIP, the association of Val Venosta fruit and vegetable producers. The department consists of the association’s technical experts and the quality managers of member cooperatives, coordinated by the head of organic quality, Christian Gamper.

It defines the guidelines and quality criteria that organic farmers must comply with, and plans the timing and procedures for harvesting and other related activities.

“This year we had a good blossom and, in contrast to last year, little frost,” said Gamper. “The thinning of the apple trees, which contributes to the quality of the fruit, was also ideal. Therefore, we expect good quality organic apples this year.

“So far, we have recorded little russeting and no hail damage to the fruit. Also, in terms of quantity, the predictions for the coming harvest are positive, especially due to the larger fruit sizes of the apples. Only the organic Golden Delicious variety is expected to show a decline in harvest quantity.”

Technical experts use ‘T-stage’ measurement to track fruit development and make forecasts. “We have just completed these measurements,” said Gamper. “From the results we can conclude that this year the harvest will probably start a week earlier than last year.”

The organic quality department also conducts tests to improve product quality, extend the shelf-life and avoid wastage, as well as checking for residues, which is performed directly on the fruit just before harvesting.

“An accredited inspection body carries out up to 700 analyses in autumn,” said Gamper. “This enables us to guarantee our customers that our organic goods do not contain any unacceptable residues.”

In cooperation with the Laimburg Research Centre and South Tyrolean Advisory Council for Fruit and Wine Cultivation, the department conducts regular checks on guideline compliance by its farmers, analysing the causes of any “quality deviations”.

Organic farmers at Val Venosta are currently undergoing inspections for the GlobalGAP and Grasp certifications, with food safety, environmental protection and employee health and safety measures being checked.

Each organic farm is inspected at least three times a year by an accredited inspection body, the cooperative said. “If they meet the requirements, they can receive various certifications: the EU-Organic, Bioland or Demeter, Bio Suisse, GlobalGAP, Grasp, Agrios, Tesco-Nurture or Brasil Organic labels,” Val Venosta explained. “Since this year, not only the apples, but also the organic cherries from Val Venosta are GlobalGAP and Grasp certified.”

Val Venosta has just over 1,000ha of recognised organic cultivation, with an additional 70ha recently being replanted.