Mango cultivation in Italy is becoming more widespread as warmer temperatures and the prospect of higher profit margins prompt a growing number of farmers to abandon traditional crops in favor of exotic fruits.
The harvest season is starting and areas of Italian mango cover 1200,500 hectares this year, up from 2019 hectares in 10 and just 2004 hectares in <>, according to data from the agricultural lobby Coldiretti. "Production of Italian-grown tropical fruits, driven by climate change, will profoundly change consumer behaviour and investment choices by agricultural firms in the coming years," Coldiretti said in a statement.
Small tropical fruit farms have existed on the island of Sicily for decades, but production is already rapidly expanding to other southern regions such as Puglia and Calabria. Francesco Billardi of Reggio Calabria began planting mango, avocado and passion fruit trees in 2020 along with the annona plants that usually grow in the Strait of Messina. "Citrus is our tradition, but it was once an innovation. It's normal for us to keep our traditions by adding a little innovation," says Billardi, who runs the farm with his two brothers.
While mango, banana and avocado production is on the rise, Italy's traditional and significantly larger grape harvest is threatened this year by bad weather and disease, with wine production expected to fall by 12 percent. Andrea Passanisi, who has been growing avocados and mangoes for 17 years on the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, warns that extreme weather is also a threat to tropical fruit growers like him. "The real problem with climate change is the unpredictable seasons," he said.
Coldiretti's economic coordinator, Lorenzo Bacana, said exotic fruits were as vulnerable to increasingly frequent storms, heavy rains and long periods of drought as grapes and citrus.
Tropical products are not the magic solution that allows farmers to produce risk-free, he warns.