An exciting orange season has come and gone. For the first time, we were allowed to disregard export standards for shape, colour and size of the fruit with official permission from the EU – much to the surprise of the farming families and the local juice industry.
"Wow! We've made a difference,” says Giorgios Stergiou when asked what he thought about #realoranges today. He recounted the whole story during a short phone call last week.
When the co-founder of our partner company Anyfion first heard about the removal of export rules for oranges around two years ago, he had strong doubts. "It won’t happen, forget about it," he said at the time. And the farming families shared his skepticism. “It’s a fantasy, the market won’t allow it,” they replied.
Well, the fantasy is now a reality. The Greek farming families have harvested 931 tonnes of oranges and exported 851 over the course of this season, which is almost over – the summer oranges are still ripening. A little more than 91% of the fruit found its way to our customers! This means that the farmers had to exclude less than 9% of their harvest to be sold to the juice industry.
In comparison, the families were only able to sell around 82% of their harvest as whole fruit during the 2018-2019 season, which was quite similar in terms of quality and harvest volume per field. The relative harvest losses were cut in half and the farming families earned significantly more than in previous years.
Word of this success quickly got around in the small town of Nafplio, where Anyfion is based. "The people here have great respect for us because we approached the EU and were successful," says Stergiou. Even the Greek Ministry of Agriculture called him to offer their congratulations.
Juice Producers, Farming Families and Agronomists Were Confused
Euphoric reactions were not the only ones we got. The juice producers who bought fruit from the farming families in recent years were confused and asked us: "Is your business having problems? Why aren’t we getting any organic oranges from you?" The transport company that previously transported the juice oranges to the press complained about too little work. On the phone, Giorgios Stergiou told us that even some of the farmers were somewhat puzzled.
"A farmer asked me how he was going to get his subsidies for juice oranges," says Stergiou. In Greece, the farming families can apply for compensation if they have too many small oranges and have to sell them to the juice industry at low prices. "I had to show him that he would earn significantly more with the new export rule and that he wouldn't have to wait so long for his money. To receive subsidies, you first have to submit an application and that takes time."
There was also a moment of confusion among the agronomists responsible for inspecting every truck before it leaves. Perplexed at the sight of the variety in the orange crates, they asked: “What’s that? Are they intended for export?" After a brief explanation, however, they remembered everything, according to Stergiou.
An EU Trick to Bypass EU Rules
All this was made possible by a trick that the EU itself revealed to us. Though it was worded in a more complicated way, the message the EU sent us in the summer of 2020 stated: "If you want to export oranges in all shapes, colours and sizes, mark your boxes with the note ‘intended for processing’".
But before things really got going, we were worried about how the #realoranges would be received by our customers. We wondered how they would react to green, blemished, large and small specimens.
In the end, our worries were unfounded. Over 600 customers sent us pictures of their delivery and showered us with praise, enthusiasm and encouragement. Almost as many showed off their #realoranges on Instagram and Facebook. We’ve compiled some of them to create a video.
The rest is history. Except for the summer oranges – as we mentioned, their journey has not yet started and you can pre-order them through the gebana online shop until May 31, 2021.
Please keep me informed about gebana and its products.
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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.
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