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Opal builds presence and promise in Europe, South Africa

With new Opal apple marketers and growers popping up around Europe and trials underway by South African produce giant DuToit, expectations are high that the Czech-origin variety – known scientifically as UEB 32642 -could reinvigorate the yellow category. As the second part of a series on Opal, at we speak with key proponents of this apple which has been met with rave reviews around the world.

“Even people who usually don’t buy Golden Delicious apples would buy an Opal-branded apple if they knew how it eats,” according to Michael Weber of Germany-based Fruit Select, which holds the European marketing rights.

Following the success of UEB 32642 grown by Broetje Orchards in the U.S. Northwest, 64 trial plantings were established in Europe in 2007.

The initial focus had been on the British, German and Austrian markets, with exclusive deals though Univeg UK and SanLucar, but Weber said Opal was now moving toward the traditional yellow apple countries of Spain, Italy and France.

“We’re taking a step-by step approach. Univeg has been selling commercial volumes for four years and SanLucar for two years, so that is phase one,” he said.

“In these countries there is a relatively low appreciation for yellow apples, and so it was there we started the Opal project to revitalize the category.

“We recently had meetings in Spain where the market was evaluated, and we now have two new partners there – Orchard Fruit and Nufri. This year we are on our way to sign agreements to get Italian companies involved.”

While the Mediterranean countries have generally been oriented toward yellow varieties, Weber has noticed a trend of marketers struggling with sales and looking to new bicolored apples like Envy, Jazz and Kanzi.

One reason for this could be yellow varieties’ tendency to lose their crunch in the heat, and Weber therefore hoped Opal’s characteristics could help to turn the tables.

“Our trial plots in Catalonia, Spain, and the Italian provinces of Piedmont, Trentino and South Tyrol show very promising results,” he said.

“One of the biggest innovations is that it holds the crunch even under the heat. From the Czech Republic you don’t know if an apple can stand the heat they have in places like Washington State, South Africa or Spain, but it’s so important.”

Weber added the variety’s high Brix levels of around 15-16 were counterbalanced with acidity, creating a ‘universal’ flavor.

“The U.K. and German consumers like it, but so do the Italians and the Spanish. So we’re relatively confident that it matches consumer expectations in different markets and cultures,” he said.

With production set to grow rapidly from the current 3,000 metric tons (MT), Weber believes the variety could one day take a chunk of the European Golden Delicious market.

“I personally believe that a share of 2-3% of the market is achievable,” he said, adding 1% of the Golden Delicious market stood for around 22,000MT.

“When will this be the case? We don’t know. Possibly between 2026 and 2030.”

Brand recognition growing in the U.K.

In the U.K., where the number of planted trees has shot up from 2000 seven years ago to 136,000 today, Univeg UK is working hard to boost consumer loyalty and extend the marketing window.

Hannah Surtees, head of category marketing and insight, highlighted that plantings had been established in various different counties, which is important in a country where consumers have a strong preference for local produce.

“It’s great that Opal can grow well in the U.K. with sustainable returns for growers to make it viable in the future,” she said.

“For me it’s a brand and a product that’s fantastically exciting. Over the last few years while I’ve been involved with it we have done very consumer-focused marketing activities and the customers are absolutely wowed by it.”

Surtees said it had been a challenge launching a new apple variety in the U.K. market, which nowadays offers huge choice but is dominated by a select few.

“The market’s become increasingly busy with a huge range for shoppers, which brings both positives and negatives,” she said.

“The positives are it’s really exciting for consumers if they can see that range of choice and that there’s definitely an apple out there for everybody, but then on the reverse of that there’s a continued challenge for space.

“Around 70% of sales still go through five core varieties – Royal Gala, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious – and then you have a large tail of new products, which are very exciting and offer consumers great choice.”

She added while consumer insight groups had pointed out many shoppers have preconceived negative ideas about yellow apples, when given Opal to try this ‘completely switched’.

“It’s a consumer paradox, yes it’s yellow on the outside, but it’s everything you want and more on the inside,” she said.

Univeg UK has brought Opal to various food festivals around the country over the years, including the BBC Good Food Show, and has been ramping up its social media presence to build brand awareness and loyalty.

Surtees is now hoping to extend the marketing season as much as possible, both through controlled atmosphere storage and greater availability.

“For the next few years it’s about building better recognition for what a great eating apple it is and that outstanding flavor, which drives repeat purchases back to the product to continue growing sales,” she said.

Dutoit prepares for first commercial volumes

One of the major counterseasonal suppliers to the U.K. in the future is likely to be South Africa, where produce company Dutoit is one of several that has been trialling production for a few years.

The leading fruit packer and exporter has various Opal orchards in four areas around the Western Cape, and was able to evaluate the first fruit in 2013.

“A semi-commercial trial of 1150 trees was made in the Koue Bokkeveld in 2012. This was a calculated risk based on information gathered first hand from visits to Broetje in the USA and various growers in France and Germany,” produce development manager Tanith Freeman said.

“The past two seasons we have been able to harvest a good sample for packing and storage trials.”

Freeman said the variety seemed to grow well in a wide range of micro-climates in the Western and Eastern Cape.  Sites to avoid are ones where Golden Delicious generally does not do well and where there is a historic high incidence of russet

The first small commercial volumes are expected next year, and while Dutoit is free to export to whichever company it chooses, Freeman said Univeg UK and SanLucar would be the natural choices to begin with.

“Considering the amount of marketing done in the UK by Univeg and SanLucar in Germany, I do believe these two companies would our first port of call,” she said.

“This year branded samples were sent to selected African markets. Their acceptance remains to be seen as Africa prefers a green Golden.

“It will be a huge challenge to position Opal as a different tasting experience against a perception of overripe Goldens.”

Representatives of TopFruit, which manages UEB 32642 in South Africa, emphasized the variety was in its very early stages in the country, but they believed it had strong potential.

“There are 33,500 trees currently in the ground, of which the bulk is planted with Dutoit, however not all trees are bearing as most were only planted in 2014 and 2015,” Pome fruit operations manager Corné Grundlingh said.

“Therefore we had small volumes this season, of which a few trial cartons were sent to Africa to test the consumers’ response, and some were introduced into the South African domestic market.”

While Europe is a key market for South African apple exports, research and trials will be carried out in a range of markets around the world in due course.

There are currently six South African companies trialing Opal orchards, but Top Fruits is looking to grow this number.

“We’d love to expand, we think it’s a great variety,” said pome fruit manager Peter Allderman.

He highlighted that feedback for the variety so far had been ‘extremely positive’, adding it was a relatively easy variety to grow.

“It has many grower-friendly characteristics. Most importantly it’s scab resistant and it’s also fairly resistant to powdery mildew, but also it’s very productive,” he said.

As for the prospects of Opal in South Africa, Allderman was hopeful for a bright future.

“At a time when we are facing declining per-capita consumption of apples, this is the kind of apple that could reverse that trend,” he said.

“We’d like to see it do very well. It’s a new category. Pink Lady was fantastic in that it introduced the pink category, and the Opal is not just a yellow apple – we’d like to see it start the gold category.

“It’s very early days, but hopefully consumers will like it and that taste and flavor is what will bring them back to it.”

Related stories: “Geometric growth” ahead for Opal apples

“Varieties are created by nature,” said Opal apple breeder

Europe needs genetically engineered crops, scientists say

TGF-FruitImageApr. 25, 2013 — The European Union cannot meet its goals in agricultural policy without embracing genetically engineered crops (GMOs). That’s the conclusion of scientists who write in Trends in Plant Science, a Cell Press publication, based on case studies showing that the EU is undermining its own competitiveness in the agricultural sector to its own detriment and that of its humanitarian activities in the developing world.

“Failing such a change, ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress, ironically because the outside world has embraced the technology which is so unpopular in Europe, realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,” said Paul Christou of the University of Lleida-Agrotecnio Center and Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats in Spain.

“Many aspects of the EU agricultural policy, including those concerning GMOs, are internally inconsistent and actively obstruct what the policy sets out to achieve,” Christou and his colleagues continued.

For instance, the Lisbon Strategy aims to create a knowledge-based bioeconomy and recognizes the potential of GMOs to deliver it, but EU policy on the cultivation of GMOs has created an environment that makes this impossible. In reality, there is a de facto moratorium in Europe on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops such as maize, cotton, and soybean, even as the same products are imported because there is insufficient capacity to produce them by conventional means at home.

Subsidies designed to support farmers now benefit large producers at the expense of family farms, Christou says. The EU has also banned its farmers from using many pesticides and restricted them from other nonchemical methods of pest control, while allowing food products produced in the same ways to be imported.

“EU farmers are denied freedom of choice — in essence, they are prevented from competing because EU policies actively discriminate against those wishing to cultivate genetically engineered crops, yet exactly the same crops are approved for import,” Christou says.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Cell Press, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Gemma Masip, Maite Sabalza, Eduard Pérez-Massot, Raviraj Banakar, David Cebrian, Richard M. Twyman, Teresa Capell, Ramon Albajes, Paul Christou. Paradoxical EU agricultural policies on genetically engineered crops. Trends in Plant Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2013.03.004

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Italy: Strawberry cultivation in Europe – current varieties and new selections

Italy: Strawberry cultivation in Europe – current varieties and new selections

A technical meeting was held on the importance of strawberry cultivation in Europe and on new interesting varieties for the domestic and European market on 18th June 2013 at the CReSo (Centro Ricerche per la Frutticoltura) located in Boves (Piedmont).

The event was organised by Cristiano Carli and Roberto Giordano, research managers from Creso. Roberto Giordano and Dr. Walther Faedi from Folrì’s CRA-FRF have talked about the strong and weak points of each of the varieties that are cultivated and available on the market.

Walther Faedi, national coordinator of the ‘Liste varietali dei Fruttiferi’ project, listed the main characteristics and tendencies in the main countries that produce strawberries i.e. Turkey, Spain, Poland, Germany, Italy, England, Holland and Netherlands.

Some of the data:

TURKEY Increase of cultivated surfaces but there are a few problems as regards distribution because of the difficulties in transportation. The production period is very long, from December to June.
SPAIN Decrease in surface areas but increase of production. Long production period, from December to June. Camarosa is the most popular variety even though Candonga is also gaining a following thanks to its organoleptic qualities.
POLAND The technique is being specialised and competitive producer cooperatives are being created. The production is mainly destined to the fresh market, leaving only a small part to the industry. Labour costs are really low: €2.5/h.
GERMANY Open field crops are the most popular. Expanded in the past few years, pressurising markets and lowering prices. Strong competitor for Italy. Elsanta and Clery are the main varieties. Remontat cultivars are increasing.
In 2012, there were 3700 hectares of strawberry crops (-20% with respect to 2000), 40% of which in the North (Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Trentino and Piedmont). The Italian production can satisfy the demand coming from the domestic market the whole year round. Produce from Sicily and Calabria arrives on the markets from January to March, that from Campania and Basilicata from April/May and overlaps with that from the North (Verona and Emilia Romagna. Summer is covered by the mountain areas and Sicily covers late autumn.

Dr. Faedi then explained the new varieties in the different Italian regions: “In the South, a number of different varieties is being evaluated, such as for example Rania, Nabila, Pircinque and Kamila from Italy, Sabrina, Fuentepina, Antilla and Primoris from Spain and Splendor, Florida-Fortuna, Mojave and Benicia from America. In the North, Italian Cristina, Romina, Garda, Alina, Dely and Joly are being considered.”

Finally, DR. Faedi analysed some varieties more in detail, such as VR177.2, as the fruit represent a good compromise between weight, compactness, Brix level (sugar content), aroma and shelf-life.

Click here to enlarge the chart.

Dr. Roberto Lombardo also talked about the varieties and the selections currently being experimented at the CreSo. Primy (medium-early), Garda (medium-early), Joly (medium-late) and Laetitia (late) were the varieties included in the extensive experimentation under the 2013 Fragola Unifera programme.

Dr. Lombardo explained how, “Garda has a good productivity, the fruit is cuneiform, with a good weight, the flesh is compact and tastes good, it is important though to verify the colour. Primy has a good productivity, with a good weight; fruits are conical with a flat tip and the colour is deep red, which must be checked with high temperatures; the taste is balanced though the resistance of fruits to handling has to be analysed. Joly has an excellent sweet and aromatic taste, the colour is bright red, which turns to deep red with high temperatures, the flesh is quite compact, the productivity is average and it is easily detachable. Laetitia is conical, with good weight, it resists to handling, the colour is bright red and the taste is good and sweet.”

Once the presentation was over, it was possible to taste the different varieties of strawberries, both those registered and those experimented.

Publication date: 6/25/2013

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“We see okra being the next big thing,” said Paul Boris, President & Co-Owner for Agritrade Farms, a grower, shipper and importer headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Florida. “Okra has historically been a very ethnic-oriented food that we envision quickly going more mainstream.  It has phenomenal health and wellness attributes, which is where we are focusing much of our marketing efforts,” said Boris.

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Boris hopes the image of okra as a superfood will gain traction in the wake of studies that suggest okra may have an effect on a range of ailments, from diabetes to breast cancer. For example, Boris mentioned an article headlined, “Eat This Now: Okra” by Alexandra Sifferlin in the July 22, 2013 in Time magazine.  The article stated that the okra trend is spurred by the fact that it is full of fibres that can help to lower cholesterol. Okra also contains nearly 10 percent of daily recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid.   “It was the preferred vegetable for the Olympic athletes of the Beijing Olympic Games,” says Kantha Shelke, a food scientist at Corvus Blue LLC and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists. (IFT)
According to, the global diabetes community, okra is fast gaining a reputation as a so called ‘superfood’ for people with or at risk of diabetes or cancer. Evidence of okra having anti-diabetic properties has increased in recent years, with multiple Vitro (laboratory) and Vivo (animal) studies confirming okra as a potent blood glucose-lowering (or anti-diabetic) food.  Okra is also known to prevent and improve digestion, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of some types of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.  The website also says okra is also known to increase energy levels, improve symptoms of depression and also helps to treat a sore throat, irritable bowel and lung inflammation. 
For more information:
Paul Boris
Agritrade Farms
Tel: +1 (954) 324.8877xt1
Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 11/26/2014
Author: Carlos Nunez / Sander Bruins Slot

Europe: Drop in table grape production 2014/15

Europe: Drop in table grape production 2014/15

The EU is still one of the leading producers of fresh fruit. Together with China and Iran, it is one of the main produces of table grapes in particular – Italy, Spain and Greece grow in fact 93% of the total European yield.

After a significant drop in the last decade, the area dedicated to table grape cultivation in Europe keeps dropping. This is due to the fact that growing is less profitable, production costs are increasing and there is a lot of competition. After a record 2013/14 campaign, a 16% drop is expected for 2014/15, for a total of 1.6 million tons.

In particular, considerable drops are expected in Italy (-20%), Greece (-8.6%), Spain (-8%), Bulgaria (-40.8%), France (-16%), Portugal (-8.6%) and Romania (-5.3%).

Click here to enlarge.

Italy is the sixth table grape producer worldwide and the third exporter behind Chile and the US. This fruit is cultivated mainly in the South and, thanks to the great intra and extra-European demand, production is shifting towards the seedless varieties (Sugraone, Crimson, Thompson, Centennial and Sublime).

This year, quantities should drop considerably because of bad weather during blossoming and setting. 

Lower production, slow consumption and the Russian ban meant prices dropped by 25-30% with respect to the previous season – from €1.30-1.50/kg to €0.70-1.20/kg.

Early varieties (Black Magic and Victoria) were available between May and late July. Medium and late varieties (Italia, Palieri, Pizzutello Biance and Red Globe) – which originate from Sicily, Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata and Sardinia - are harvested from August to December.

Click here to enlarge.

According to the latest data supplied by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, production should drop by 8% because of bad weather.

Currently there are 13,500 hectares of table grapes and the most productive areas are Murcia, Valencia and Andalusia. 70% of the total cultivated areas are in Murcia and Alicante. There are 50 varieties of table grapes in Spain, but the main ones are Aledo, Ideal, Muscatel, Dominga and Napoleon. Seedless grapes represent 30% of the total production and are mostly grown in Murcia.

Greece is the third main table grape producer in the EU after Italy and Spain. This year, the country should produce around 298,000 tons. The season started on the second week of August and should end early.

Currently, 17,000 hectares of table grapes are cultivated and the main producers are Corinth in the Peloponnese, Kavala in Macedonia and Candia in Crete. The most popular varieties are Sultana (Thompson seedless) and Victoria.

Despite the economic crisis, consumption of table grapes in the EU has been rather stable in the past few years at 2 million tons. From June and until the end of the commercial year, the produce is supplied internally – imports from third countries only represent 22.5%.

Italy consumes the most, followed by Germany, UK, Greece, Spain, France, Romania, Portugal, Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Despite the fact that Italian grapes with seeds are still widely appreciated, consumers are increasingly asking for seedless varieties. 

Many European producers are therefore replacing traditional varieties with Sugraone, Crimson, Thompson, Regal, Summer Royal, Centennial, Sublime, etc. In addition, more attention has been paid to the late varieties, so the season can be extended for longer after the summer fruit campaign.

Source: data

Publication date: 11/12/2014

Fig consumption on the rise in Europe

Fig consumption on the rise in Europe

The fig season started 3 weeks ago for the Israeli company Avniv Export, coinciding with the decline of the Turkish campaign. CEO Niva Ben Zion explains that, “during the winter, Israeli figs are in high demand, as they fill the gap between the Turkish and Brazilian seasons. The campaign usually lasts from October to January, depending on the weather.”

This season, the company offers only two varieties, the Brazilian type, called Brown Turkey, and the Cyprus variety, called Autumn Honey. “Both are dark, very tasty, with a better shelf life than during the summer,” says Niva.

According to Niva, consumption tends to increase exponentially before the Christmas holidays in destinations like Scandinavia, the UK or Germany. “I believe it is due to figs being used in high cuisine, for salads, dishes or marmalades. It is an acquired taste, but consumption is on the rise, as people are currently more exposed to ethnic flavours”

In terms of pricing, Avniv Export works with a programme on a fixed price base. “I believe this is good both for me and for my clients; we don’t play with the price. I speak with the grower to find out what he wants and then offer the price to the client, negotiating back with the grower,” states Niva, who also says that “demand is always higher than supply.”

When the firm started exporting figs, in 2009, it first focused on the UK market, which Niva believes to be the most advanced in terms of exotics. “I decided to focus on exotics, because this is something I could have an added value in. I really am passionate about exotics.”

For more information:
Niva Ben Zion
Tel: +972-2-9941047
Skype: niva.ben.zion

Publication date: 11/12/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot

Chilean Kiwi behavior in the US and Europe

Chilean Kiwi behavior in the US and Europe

At a time in which 45,000 tons of New Zealand kiwi have been exported, a volume that is 22% smaller than in the same period of the 2012-2013 season, Decofrut and the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee delivered a report on how well the Chilean kiwi is selling in the markets.

Chile has exported a total of 111,184 tons of kiwi by week 22, a very similar volume to the one registered at the same date last season. However, it is worth mentioning that there is a significant reduction in the total volume of shipments, 31% less than what was exported in week 21.

The US kiwi market was slower this week, mainly because of the increased supply available. The bigger availability of the fruit caused prices to decline, on average, between US $ 0.50 and $ 1 dollar per box when compared to the previous week. Thus, the sale of the 20s calibres was between US$ 17 and US$ 20/9 kilos, the 30s calibres between US$ 16 and US$ 19/9 kilos and the 42 and 45 calibres between US$ 15 and US$ 17.50 / 9 kilos.

Meanwhile, the supply of kiwis in Europe remained limited, which allowed prices to remain high and higher than in the previous season. The recorded prices for Chilean kiwifruit ranged between €11 and €15/10 kilos, however sales were concentrated between €11 and €13.50 / 10 kilos (for the entire range of sizes). On average, these prices are 16% higher compared to the 2011-2013 season. The 20s calibre is offered between €12 and €15/10 kilos, the 30s series between €11 and €14/10 kilos and the 40s and lower gauges calibres between €12 and €13.50 / 10 kilos.

This biweekly report is part of the Strengthening the Competitiveness of Chilean kiwifruit Project that is funded by FIA and is made exclusively by Decofrut and the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee.

For more information on Chilean kiwifruit exports in markets such as Asia and Latin America, consult the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee and Decofrut.

Source: Chilean Kiwifruit Committee, Decofrut

Publication date: 6/26/2013