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THE RED ORANGE - THE TASTES AND SMELLS OF SICILY
Making a system, having a shared program for growth, innovating, promoting products on the market and assisting with their marketing.
That is the aim of Sicily's citrus fruit district , created in 2005 as the "District for the Production of the Red Orange" and that then went on to change its name in June 2011, to enable it to promote all the types of citrus fruit produced on the island, grouping them together under one single brand "Sicilia ".
The District brings together the producers of Sicily's renowned blood oranges, a special variety of orange that has been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) status, and those of other citrus fruits. In addition to the supply chain companies and the consortia companies for the protection of IGP and Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) products (such as blonde oranges of Ribera, Interdonato lemons of Messina, lemons of Siracusa and mandarins of Ciaculli), it also includes trade associations, local authorities, scientific research bodies, relational tourism and cooperation.
As its president, Federica Argentati, explains, the district still has areas of potential that have yet to be fully exploited.
This will require greater attention at regional and national levels, as well as investments in order to allow it to finally be able to compete on equal terms with others world-wide - beginning with the excellent quality of the products - that would undoubtedly allow it to place its emphasis on excellence. "In my opinion the sector is now valued at 50% of the potential," Argentati explains, highlighting how investing in a citrus fruit cultivation "that is weighed down by incredible tax burdens, as is the case in other sectors" would help Italian producers to position themselves as leaders in a market where the costs of low production are increasingly affecting the quality of products.
"Previously one of the competitors of excellence was Spain, which had known how to make the most out of EU funding but which now has become one of the many situations in which citrus fruits are produced and sold.
The new frontiers are represented by Egypt and other countries that have very low production costs. This is why they are preferred more and more, often at the expense of a product's quality" said the district's President.
As Argentati also emphasised, in order to achieve excellent results, it is also imperative for companies to "show a tight-knit, united front, because it can be of help both externally and internally.
This is the citrus industry's weak link, and it precisely because of this that the District's mission is to move ahead with shared strategies, to have a plan and to work on the programming rather than on the emergency.
The fact that there is strength in unity has also been demonstrated by the recent interest shown in us by the Coca-Cola Foundation. It decided to fund a research project on citrus-energy from citrus pulp (pastazzo), i.e. the by-product that comes from the processing of citrus fruits. Instead of the foundation turning to any one individual company for this project it turned to the District." Finally, as Argentati highlights, citrus farming can create increasing opportunities for young people and she concludes by saying: "There are already many who have chosen farming; I find them the most innovative because they are the ones that experiment, above all using the web."