Italian exotic products, a brilliant start

Avocado, mango, papaya, etc. today are cultivated and harvested also in the orchards of our Country, in particular in Sicily and Calabria. For now, the volumes are small, but, also because of global warming and market requirements, they are in exponential growth.

The soils (volcanic, rich in humus, and permeable) are satisfactory and the results have exceeded all expectations. Made in Italy exotic fruits, in fact, are characterised by excellent quality and, in many respects, they are even better than those that come from the most suitable regions. They have a further plus: local fruits arrive on the European shelves of the points of sale in 24/48 hours, compared to the four days necessary for ‘true exotic ones’. Thus, in the countryside among Messina, Etna and Acireale (Catania), as well as at Bagnara Calabra (Reggio Calabria), tropical fruit plants are growing and multiplying.

In Italy this market is worth, in general, 594 million Euros or, in terms of volumes, 380 thousand tons. However, these values are decisively resized if bananas and pineapples are excluded: 63 million Euros and 16 thousand tons. In fact, bananas and pineapples - although exotic in origin - have now become typical of our food tradition and they are therefore part of the grouping of ‘tropical’ fruits by origin rather than ‘exotic’ fruits, that is to say far away from our food traditions. The evolution of consumption of exotic fruit from 2012 to 2016 showed an increase by 90% in value and 50% in volume. The consumption data concerning recent years also indicate increasingly concentrated preferences in favour of mango, avocado, and coconut, in addition to the usual pineapples and bananas.

Chirimoya, dragon fruit, pitaya, etc. are characterised by showy colours and curious shapes. They seem to have entered the daily life of Europeans. According to an interview carried out by Monitor Ortofrutta 2017, 58% of respondents are able to associate name and image of papaya. The correct answers exceed 40% also for passion fruit, Hass avocado, and mango. These fruits have already entered with a regular offer in large-scale retail trade. The confusion dominates the less common fruits, such as carambola or cherimoya, tamarillo and sapodilla. How do we explain such a success? Effectiveness of communication and - above all - improvement of logistics, with much more competitive transport costs than in the past, which did the rest.

Italian Finger lime
This year Finger lime, too, was collected for the first time in the orchards at Francofonte (Syracuse), Lamezia Terme (Catanzaro), and Latina. The plants will go into full production by autumn 2019. Some producers also constituted the Italian Finger Lime Consortium which, in addition to the Italian market, aims at reaching foreign markets, with Made in Italy finger lime. Thanks to the vegan and vegetarian trends, but also to its beneficial properties (it contains vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants, and polyphenols), the demand is in fact growing all over the world.

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