"The time has come to diversify in Basilicata, Italy. This region boasts exceptional soil and weather conditions to produce small fruits 12 months a year. Together with other local entrepreneurial activities, we are focusing on the cultivation and commercialization of berries, a sector that has been growing steadily over the past few years. It is an ambitious project that will see the set up of 120 new hectares of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and baby kiwifruit," reports Nicola Gentile, an entrepreneur from Policoro (Matera) with over fifty years of experience and owner of Gentilfruit, a company covering 50 hectares and with clients all over the domestic territory.
"The mission is producing fully Italian fruit grown in the hilly and mountain areas of the Lucania territory as well as on the Metaponto plain, an area well known for its production of Candonga® strawberries. It is a demanding challenge, but it is not impossible. There are many producers who are converting their facilities," he says.
"Basilicata has a lot of potential to become the largest production center in Italy. We are counting on the professionalism of producers taking part in this important project, however a satisfactory income must be granted to those investing in it."
"The cultivation of berries will go hand in hand with that of strawberries, which currently covers one thousand hectares in total. These crops cannot be extended due to labor problems. In our region, Candonga® is a well-known brand for strawberries and market absorption is proportionate to production also thanks to the higher sales prices with respect to other cultivars."
"In my group, producers focusing on soft fruit are already active when it comes to greenhouse cultivation, especially stone fruit, though they are going through a period of crisis. However, there are also some strawberry producers who want to introduce new crops, as they want to replace winter vegetables. Berries are a winning solution, as existing facilities are perfect for their cultivation."
"Distributing production over a long period also in the fall-winter months will help strawberry cultivation when it comes to the procurement of labor from nearby regions, as it is usually concentrated only in March-May."
"We are currently registering our brand, which will be recognized by the big retail chains and markets. A brand is synonymous with high-quality, respect for operators and the environment, traceability and Italian origin."
"We will focus on offering solutions that can provide considerable profit to producers, who are now tired with the problems of the agricultural sector. Rather than a crop revolution, I would consider it a cultural revolution of the agricultural world, brought about by producers themselves."
As regards the varieties that will be planted, Nicola explains that "it is essential to guarantee the continuity throughout the year. It is therefore important to have more than one variety of reference to meet consumer needs in terms of organoleptic qualities while at the same time having the produce available for as many months as possible in order to avoid having to source supplies from abroad. In Basilicata, we have the possibility to produce all year round, but we are also talking to other producers in central and northern Italy to strengthen this project."
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