The Greek nursery Farm Hellas has put a lot of effort into the promotion of their flagship product: the organic pear variety Sissy. Sissy pears have found their way to the Greek retail market, where they met with a great response.
“Our Sissy pears have had great sales, to the point where consumers are directly asking for them by name. The success has been so great, that some retail chains had to temporarily remove them from the shelves, as other pear varieties remained unsold,” says Farm Hellas’ agricultural engineer Sofia Kepapidou.
As Sissy pears are an organic variety, the production volumes are rather modest, with only 50 tons per season. According to Kepapidou, this volume should last about two months. Farm Hellas is mostly involved with conventional production. While the company uses 80 hectares for conventional production, about 6 or 7 hectares are used for organic products. “We hope that more Greek farmers are going to switch over to organic, especially as the EU is handing out subsidies aimed at organic production,” says Kepapidou.
Farm Hellas is going to use these subsidies to create its own packaging facility. The company is also negotiating with local farmers who would like to operate under the umbrella of Farm Hellas. Another target for 2017 is to acquire GlobalGAP certificates in order to boost European trade. However, the most important project for this year has to do with promoting Sissy pears in the European agricultural sector. For Farm Hellas, Italy is of especial importance, as Italy has traditionally always been a large consumer of pears.
“We’ve introduced the Sissy pear to Italian growers, and they were very positive. This goes especially for the Bolzano area. There are a lot of apple growers in Bolzano, who’ve become disenchanted with their sector. Growing apples has become too expensive and they’re looking for more lucrative options. Pear cultivation could be a great alternative for this region,” says Kebapidou.
One of the strong points of the Sissy pear variety is its resistance to frost. Greece has had to deal a lot with adverse weather circumstances. The main production area of Larissa was hit by a cold front in March 2016. Because of this, about 70% to 80% of the total pear production was destroyed. However, the sissy pear production remained unscathed. Research by scientists of the universities of Thessaloniki and Volos, in cooperation with the Greek department of agriculture, confirms this characteristic of the Sissy pear.
The Sissy pear season started a bit earlier in 2016 due to warm weather. While the season typically commences on the first week of August, this year it kicked off in the last week of July. Volumes will last until January or February by use of cold storage or even until April when processed with Smartfresh. “We’ve been working like this for years, storing half of our volumes to stretch the season. We usually end the season during the Greek Easter in April, as from May onwards other Greek fruits, like strawberries, hit the market,” says Kebapidou.
For the first time ever, Farm Hellas will be present at Fruit Logistica 2017. The company aims to promote Sissy pears, while also working with other companies to support the Greek agricultural sector as a whole.