For years, cherries have enriched the seasonal fruit and vegetable assortment from Val Venosta; they are popular with customers beyond the region’s borders. This year’s cherry harvest has just begun. The processing and marketing of the Val Venosta cherries is carried out centrally in an innovative sorting and packaging plant in Lasa.
It is not just apples growing in the Vinschgau Valley. The farmer members of VIP, the Association of Val Venosta Producers of Fruit and Vegetables, have also been dedicating themselves to the cultivation of other seasonal products for several years. Along with apricots, strawberries and cauliflower, cherries are an important and popular part of the seasonal assortment from Val Venosta.
The cherries, mainly of the Kordia and Regina varieties, ripen at altitudes between 600 and 1,300 meters. The climatic conditions there contribute positively to the good development of the external and internal quality of the cherries: Thus, Val Venosta cherries score with intense sweetness combined with refreshing acidity, a juicy flesh and crunchy consistency.
Last year, the farmers of the various Vinschgau member cooperatives of the VIP harvested and delivered around 500 tons of cherries. “Unfortunately, this year the cold frost nights in spring left their mark. Only through the use of elaborate frost protection measures was it possible to save a good part of the cherry harvest and only minor losses in volume are expected,” says Reinhard Ladurner, cherry sales manager at VIP and managing director of OG Alpe in Laas. If the weather plays along, up to 600-700 tons of cherries can normally be harvested on the current cultivation area in Vinschgau.
Reinhard Ladurner is sales manager for cherries at VIP and managing director of OG Alpe in Laas. Photo: Raiffeisen.
Innovative sorting and packing plant
The cherries have been sorted and made ready for sale at the ALPE cooperative in Laas for several years. As early as 2015, the board of directors of the VIP set the strategic course for the development of cherry cultivation in the Vinschgau Valley: it decided to achieve a joint processing center for the Vinschgau cherries, showing great foresight.
Since 2016, the central processing and marketing of the cherries has thus taken place at ALPE, according to the most modern processes. “With an innovative sorting and packaging plant for cherries, we succeed in automating and optimizing the entire processing procedure. The delivered cherries are selectively sorted according to quality, size, color and internal qualities,” Reinhard Ladurner says. The cherries pass through a quality reading system that thoroughly inspects every single cherry. At the end of their journey, the cherries leave the sorting plant, packed ready for sale. On the one hand, this assists the farmers during the harvest, and on the other hand, it allows VIP to specifically meet individual customer requirements, increasing added value.
90% of the cherries from Val Venosta are sold on the Italian market under the brand name “Val Venosta – Ciliegie di Montagna”, sporting the South Tyrol quality label, via wholesalers, supermarkets and retailers. About 10% of Val Venosta cherries, on the other hand, are exported abroad.