Fruitimprese shared data regarding the first 9 months of marketing abroad Italian produce. Both the export (-12.2% quantity and -3.5% value) and the import (-1% quantity and -1.6% value) dropped. The economic balance is positive (522 million euros, -12.5% compared to September 2017) while the volume is negative (62.577 tons).
In the first 9 months of 2018, the export value is of 3.3 billion euros and the quantity is of 2.6 million tons. Many measures dropped (fresh fruit -6.9%, legume and vegetable -1%), while only citrus fruit increased its value (+15.9%) and quantity (11.7%).
With regard to imports, Italy imported goods for a value of 2.7 billion euros and 2.6 million tons (with a 1.6% and 1% drop, respectively).
The Fruitimprese president Marco Salvi commented, “This year’s trend shows the liveliness of the sector and the export-oriented attitude. At the same time, the import increased (+62.000 tons) and there are some concerns regarding the trade balance which is still positive, but it will not be on the same level as in 2017 – when it was more than 1 billion euros”.
The comparison between the foreign horticultural market long-period data (2000-2018) raises even more concerns regarding the competitiveness of the Italian system.
Salvi continued, “In less than 20 years, we decreased export and increased import. This latter has grown by 142.5% and we import one million tons of product more. The citrus fruit import has grown by 214%, the legume and vegetables by 114.5%. These products compete directly with ours, as they also come from countries which are our competitors on international markets. In the same period, we exported less 100,000 tons of legume/vegetable and lost 73,000 tons of fresh fruit”.
Marco Salvi, Fruitimprese national president
Italy needs to open markets, it needs to export produce whose quality, sustainability and innovation cannot be matched. Salvi continued, “The Russian embargo was a fatal blow for our export and it inevitably destabilised the intra-European horticultural marketing balance. Instead of working for getting rid of this embargo, it seems as if markets generally accepted it. The balance is changing: the Netherlands and Belgium are aggressively promoting their pears thus giving us many troubles, and Greece is doing the same with regard to kiwis. The Polish companies which use to sell their apples mainly in Russia have filled the European market with their produce, with very heavy consequences for prices and especially for our apples”.
Salvi continued, “We will never get tired to point this out: we need to open new markets to our production – the traditional ones are saturated, now. We need to push for bilateral agreements, such as phytosanitary protocols in China, Mexico and other Far Eastern countries. In this way, it is possible to help our export thus not stressing European markets much. We need the support of the government to start discussions with those far away markets where our competitors are more active and capable than us. Recently, Spain has signed an agreement with China for the grape export and the Netherlands can now export its pears to China, Brazil, Mexico, India, Vietnam and Colombia. On the other hand, we are standing still. Other countries such as France try to organise new systems: the new ‘Maison des Fruits & Légumes’ is born in Paris with a 40 million euros investment. This was necessary in order to aggregate three independent and interprofessional companies: Interfel, Ctifl and Arpifel, on behalf of the whole French fruit and vegetable system”.
Salvi concluded, “The government needs to start discussions with companies so that, through dialogue, we can decide the priorities: updating the production registers, doing a state of the art of the main phytosanitary files in order to promote our export in targeted countries, and the government support with regard to communication strategies. The worsening of our interexchange with foreign countries is concerning for the whole Italian system: the fruit and vegetable sector is one of our main productive, economic and social pillars of Southern Italy and it is the second most exported branch of our agri-food sector.