Among other events, the Macfrut Innovation Award ceremony. The first day was also an opportunity to take stock of the peach sector
Rimini, 10 May 2018 – Over the years, many urban legends have circulated on fresh-cut products. Some people believe that these products are of inferior quality, more expensive, and full of preservatives or harmful microorganisms. But is it really so? On the first day of Macfrut (Wednesday, 9 May), currently held at the Rimini Expo Centre, a number of world-renowned scientists gathered at a conference to take stock of the situation. During this top-level seminar, held in a fully packed room, excerpts from academic studies and research were presented.
Professor Giancarlo Colelli of the University of Foggia immediately proved the following cliché wrong: those who eat fresh-cut products do not give up locally grown products. If they were to give up fresh-cut products, they could do without salad, and would perhaps rely on food supplements, which, today, are a steadily growing market (in 2014, the sector reached a sales volume of €2 billion). Producers must therefore focus on providing accurate information, innovating systems and processes, improving quality and safety, and increasing product life cycle. In other words, technological innovation will enable them to meet the challenges of other product sectors.
Luis Cisneros-Zevallos of Texas A&M University shed light on fresh-cut product biology for health. A number of studies show that, once cut, several vegetables release antioxidants (even if they are left in the fridge for several days) and other health-promoting compounds. The industry should therefore adopt new storage technologies so as not to lose these properties.
The irrational fears about bacteria in salads have also been overcome. Trevor Suslow, of the University of California in Davis, noted how the media are focusing on the large number of bacteria found in fresh-cut packaging, but these numbers are actually within normal limits and are by no means synonymous with low quality or product unhealthiness. On the contrary, beneficial microbial communities could be exploited in the future to eliminate the presence of human pathogens in products.
33 innovative companies received the Macfrut Innovation Award
The fruit and vegetable industry showcased at Macfrut is a winning sector. The fourth edition of the Macfrut Innovation Award was held, promoted by L’Informatore Agrario and Cesena Fiera, during which 33 innovations in eight different sections of the supply chain were awarded: seeds, machines and equipment for cultivation, protected crops, fertilizers, packing and packaging technology, logistics and services, and fresh-cut products. During the award ceremony, which took place in the meeting area of L’Informatore Agrario, nine gold, twenty silver and four bronze medals were awarded.
An overview of the peach sector
As for Italy, the year 2017 was not a memorable year for peaches and nectarines. Due to above-average production, the average producer price fell to €0.25 per kilo. However, this did not only concern Italian producers, since significant decreases were recorded also in Spain and Greece. As a result, this issue was addressed at Macfrut 2018 in “The European Peach Forum” where various European sector representatives discussed statistics, analyses and, above all, the outlooks for 2018.
As Elisa Macchi of CSO Italy confirmed, ‘The year 2017 was a terrible year for Italian peach growers, with above-average production (+9% of peaches, +26% of percocche peaches and +5% of nectarines). This growth is largely due to the increase in production in Southern Italy. As for the forecasts for 2018, the final ones will be announced on 24 May in Spain. For now, we can only provide general indications, which, however, already show that production has dropped compared to last year, so the next season could be less challenging for producers than last year’s.’
One of Italy’s problems is also that, for some years now, the production peak (June and July) has coincided with Spain’s production peak, which previously concerned mainly the early varieties. In the last three years, Italy’s peach exports have decreased by 12% and prices have dropped by 5%.
Spain is not doing any better either, since average production costs have reached €0.14 per kilo, nevertheless its exports are doing very well and are constantly growing. Germany is currently the leading country, followed by France.
Javier Basols (Cooperativas Agro Alimentarias España) spoke of a structural imbalance and has a positive outlook for the forecast of a 10% drop in the total production of Spanish peaches. ‘We are also concerned about the decline in the consumption of peaches in Spain,’ Basols explained. ‘A few years ago, it amounted to 7-8 kilos per year per capita, but it has now gone down to 4 kilos. And, despite its 50 million inhabitants, Spain’s production losses amounted to millions of kilos. We must also try to recover the domestic market by focusing on quality and communication.’
As for the average production price, in 2017 even Greece did not achieve better results. As Christos Giannakakis of the Association of Imathia’s Agricultural cooperatives explained, ‘In 2017, producers were very disappointed, since they earnt €0.15 per kilo with heavy losses. For 2018, we also expect production to fall, mainly due to adverse weather conditions that have harmed at least 13,000 hectares.’
France, instead, has managed to avoid competition within Europe since 2009, turning mainly to the domestic market and ensuring communication and product quality. ‘They are the same consumers who demand French produce,’ explained Bruno Darnaud, Féderation fruits et légumese d’Occitanie Peches et abricots de France. ‘And I believe that this has been the result of years of successful communication campaigns.’