Greek agricultural cooperative NESTOS is expecting kiwifruit export volumes and prices to remain similar to last year during the upcoming season, and says the industry will increase focus on newer markets in Asia.
NESTOS director Tasos Karkatzalos tells Fresh Fruit Portal the season will kick off this month and likely extend through April or May.
The industry has not yet collected all the data from the 2017-18 season, but Karkatzalos is forecasting similar export volumes and prices for the upcoming 2018-19 season.
This comes on the back of a poor season performance in 2016-17, where he says Greek kiwifruit prices fell approximately 15% because of oversupply.
“The price bounced back in 2017 and we expect that the prices will remain at the same level for the upcoming season,” says Karkatzalos.
“In 2016-2017, a larger size kiwifruit sold for €1.5 per kilo whereas smaller sizes for €1 per kilo. In 2017-2018, larger sizes sold for €1.7 per kilo and smaller ones for €1.1 per kilo.”
Around half of Greece’s kiwifruit exports are sold in the EU, followed by non-EU Eastern European countries with around 15%, North America with 10%, and others, such as China, South Africa and India, with 5%. The market shares are expected to remain similar this coming season.
But changes are slowly taking place in the country’s kiwifruit industry.
For one, Karkatzalos says that the industry is putting more focus on “new markets which are promising” – namely Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea.
In addition, he says that Greece has been able to lift the overall quality of its production.
“We are proud to report that the quality of production is even higher. In particular, sizes and quality characteristics are evolving with regards to the fruit cultivation – i.e. different sugars, new cultivation techniques,” says Karkatzalos, adding that the Greek climate and soil conditions are very favorable.
There is also increased collaboration among Greek kiwifruit growers to tackle common issues.
“We are constantly trying to be better in what we do. This is why Greek kiwi producers are organizing in larger groups, and investments are underway for mechanical equipment and facilities, alongside promotional activities,” reveals Karkatzalos.
But all is not complete without new infrastructure for the industry. Karkatzalos said that the main factor limiting growth nowadays is the availability of cooling chambers.
“With regards to production and exporting, there are no particular challenges as production is very smooth and exports are booming,” he says.
“The main challenge is the need of constant facility upgrades, as demand has grown by more than 10% and requires greater production which, in itself, requires larger cooling chambers for the preservation of the fruits for a longer period.”
“This way, we can prolong the commercial availability of our fruits and cover market needs for almost the whole year.”
He added that the industry is experimenting with new varieties, the most successful of which he expects will yield commercial volumes in five to 10 years.