Large, small, perfect, scarred, orange, green – real oranges have many faces. This winter we will finally get to see them all.
There is actually an EU Regulation that specifies what citrus fruits need to look like to be sold to end consumers: orange, intact, free of bruises or deep scars, at least 53 millimetres in diameter. Smaller or more unique oranges can only be made into juice and may not be exported as whole fruits for consumption.
Who does this Regulation benefit? The major supermarkets that want to treat oranges like screws – they want them all to be the same. They also keep smaller competitors at bay through the Regulation. The losers are customers, farming families and the environment. In 2019, we decided to take a stand against the madness.
We wrote letters to the Greek authorities and to the EU. We did not hold out much hope of a useful response, and we assumed we would need to collect signatures for a petition.
After around six months we finally received an email from the Greek Ministry of Agricultural Development. The response from the EU was attached and included, among other things, the following lines:
“By way of derogation from Article 113a(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007, Member States may exempt from the specific marketing standards products presented for retail sale to consumers for their personal use and labelled ‘product intended for processing’ or with any other equivalent wording and intended for processing other than those referred to in paragraph 1(a)(i) of this Article.”
This is the exact wording of Article 4(3) of Regulation (EU) 543/2011. According to the Greek Ministry, this Article only applies to sales within the production region and not to export. The EU, however, gave the green light for us to export oranges of any shape, colour and size from Greece on the basis of this Article. The only condition was that we had to label the boxes with ‘product intended for processing’.
Thanks to this official permission, farming families in Greece will be able to sell 85 to 90 percent of their harvest to our customers as whole fruits. In previous years, they have had to weed out an average of a quarter of the fruits. Our aim is that they will have to process a maximum of 5 to 10 percent of the harvest into juice. This will then only be the fruits that have a shorter shelf life or do not taste as good as the rest.
For you it means you will be able to buy real oranges for the first time. Each box will be labelled with a sticker saying ‘product intended for processing’ – this is our secret code for a box of tasty oranges in all of the sizes, colours and shapes that Mother Nature has to offer.
The official permission has brought with it, however, an initial significant cost. The Regulation means that all processes were designed for as compliant a sorting of the fruit as possible. Now we need to adapt the sorting machines and (perhaps more importantly) explain to the employees why the supposedly ugly oranges now belong in the box after all these years.
This new interpretation of the EU Regulation will of course bring with it further challenges, but we are looking forward to the wide range of oranges we will find in our boxes this winter. The is especially true of the smallest oranges. According to farmer Olga Aggelena these are mostly sweeter and more aromatic than the larger ones.
You can pre-order real oranges from our shop. The first delivery will be in December with others following in January and February.
We are excited to see what our real oranges will look like! Share a picture of your orange delivery with the hashtag #RealOranges on social media or with us via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Smallholders and local producers harvest and refine products of extraordinary quality worldwide. But for many of these producers there is no adequate or stable market. You can buy directly from these producers via the Access to Market Platform and help them to participate in the market. The principle behind this is crowd ordering – a new trade model whereby a number of consumers order a product together so as to achieve a minimum order quantity. We at gebana support the producers with our know-how, and organise the logistics.
Enable someone to make their first export with your order. Please note: Unexpected events often lead to delays, and you may find that the quality is not yet perfect. For this reason, your feedback is absolutely essential. The export experience and your feedback are important steps for the producers towards accessing the market. As a customer, you are witness to the whole process, playing your part in pioneering work.
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