“MANY of the food products that come from abroad travel by ship and Italy’s ports have been able to grow with the increase in traffic”. According to Nereo Marcucci, president of Confetra, it is now necessary to “focus more and more on the quality of preservation of goods, especially for all those shipments that arrive in our country from abroad”.
How has the handling of agri-food products that arrive to and depart from Italian ports changed in the last fifty years?
“Once upon a time, goods travelled in the cargo holds of ships. For some years now, however, refrigerated containers have been in use. There are systems that allow customers to constantly monitor their products and the state of their preservation at every stage of the sea voyage: as a result, interest is growing in Italian fruit abroad and particularly in Asia, as refrigerated containers are fundamental tools for the export of fresh produce.”
There is still the problem of infrastructure, which is often lacking. How much of an effect will this delay have?
“In Italy, it’s a constant topic of conversation that for many years little has been invested in major construction. The subject does not only concern the docks but more generally the entire logistical system. All this has for a long time made it impossible for Italian operators to count on a fully competitive system both in Europe and globally. Last year we made a list of the urgent needs for our country: there are fifteen infrastructure elements, tangible and intangible, that Confetra considers decisive for the development of the sector. The transit times for goods during their journey between origin and destination are a new and decisive element of competitiveness in our productive systems, as well as the more traditional ones: the cost of capital, the credit crunch, flexibility, productivity and the bureaucratic hurdles.”
Which Italian agri-food products are most in demand abroad?
“If we analyse only fruit, in the last year there has been an increase in exports for grapes while some slowdown has been recorded in local apples although Italian apples remain among the best and most in-demand in the world. World apple production stands at around 84 million tonnes, with China still the largest producer, accounting for over 40 million tonnes. Excluding the Asian giant, whose harvest is mainly for domestic consumption, the largest producer is the United States with a production of about four million tonnes. Turkey and Poland, both with around 2.7 million tonnes, are on an equal footing and growing steadily. Italy, on the other hand, has been producing at a constant rate for over 30 years, with a share of about 2.2 million tonnes. India, on the other hand, is a real rising star, and since the 1980s has more than doubled its volume of apples, producing about 2.2 million tonnes per year”.