Greek kiwifruit growers avoid gold varieties to stay Psa-free -

Greek kiwifruit growers avoid gold varieties to stay Psa-free

Greece has seen a notable rise in kiwifruit exports in recent years, and with it increased requests for the types of gold varieties that have yielded such strong premiums in the markets of Asia and the Middle East.

But it's no dice for the moment, at least for growers in the country's northeastern region of Kavala where a consortium of growers is almost one year in with the EU-backed campaign 'European Premium Kiwi'.

The program, also supported by the Greek Government and four growers and cooperatives Nespar, Nestos, Goustera and Alkyon, has been underway in Canada with a range of initiatives this past year and officially launched in China during Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong this month.

"We have in-store advertising in Canada, billboard advertising, cocktail events, and we’re going to do the same here and in Dubai," European Premium Kiwi spokesperson Anta Tsaira told during the trade fair.

"It’s going to continue in October with in-store promotion," she said, adding the campaign would mostly take place in Hong Kong and southern China.

"We are also launching On Sept. 29 in Dubai with similar activities. We are going to WOP Dubai in November, and we are doing in-store promotions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi."

Nespar agronomist Konstantinos Maragkozis said his company started exporting to China last season with 20 containers sent to Shanghai and Guangzhou. european-premium-kiwi-2

"You need permission to export to China; it is not so easy, not all companies can export to China," he said.

"It's a very good market, very demanding for quality, but they can pay for what they ask. For that reason it is a very interesting market for us.

"We are sure that season by season we’re going to increase the containers."

Keeping out Psa

Gold kiwifruit varieties are particularly popular in China, but as long as Greece is free of Psa disease it is unlikely growers will veer away from the standard green Hayward cultivar.

"We don’t intend to plant yellow kiwifruit. Why? Because yellow kiwifruit is very sensitive to Psa, and also the plants must be bought from Italy where Psa is present," said Nestos director Karkatzalos Tasos.

"At this moment we are very lucky because we don’t have any problems with Psa, but we take some measurements to prevent Psa coming in our area.

"First of all, we inform our partners. Second, where we buy our plants from is a big issue, and how they produce the plants; we avoid buying new plants from nurseries from Italy or Chile or wherever Psa is present," he said.

Tasos said hopefully his region's natural barriers of mountains and the sea would serve as protection from the bacteria.

"It’s a big risk not only for the yellow kiwifruit but also the green kiwifruit. We have a clear area and we want to keep it like this."

Ioannis Chatzigianakos of Goustera said growers can never truly be prepared for disease incursions like Psa, but some measurements could be taken for mitigation.

"No one would realize the big problem was coming up in Italy or New Zealand until they found out," he said.

"We do our best. We’re not saying we’re not going to have it, but hopefully if we do it'll be in a small percentage and that can be very manageable."

Maintaining quality

Maragkozis said the Kavala region had a microclimate that was conducive to high quality kiwifruit production, due to a combination of the nearby hills, the Nestos River and the Mediterranean Sea.

"The other important thing is the structure of the soil - you irrigate it and the next three days it’s going to drain," he said, highlighting the soil also drained well because it was sandy.

"We start harvesting around mid-October, we leave the fruits out 24 hours out of the refrigerator in the fresh air, we calibrate and sort for quality, and after that we put it in the refrigerator within 24 hours.

"Once we work with big supermarket chains, we have good quality standards, we monitor all of our refrigerators, ripening progress, and of course then it’s the packaging and what each of our customers' demands for their specifications," added Chatzigianakos.

With these systems in place, Maragkozis said fruit has been successfully exported on journeys of more than 40 days, reaching markets including South Africa, Mauritius, Réunion, China and the Middle East.