Great demand from consumers but low national production (30% of requirements) which determines subjection from non-EU markets (2 thousand tons per year from China, Egypt, Turkey) and crushes Made in Italy with a product with low quality standards, imported to rock bottom prices (1/5 less). According to Cia-Agricoltori Italiani, this is the photograph of the chili pepper market, one of the gastronomic symbols of our country, which in order to develop and compete needs a superior quality, innovative and integrated supply chain.
In the past, chili peppers have enjoyed little attention in the past, identified as a subspecies of pepper and considered as a spice and not an agricultural product in all respects. This has often confined it to the passion of hobbyists in gardens or on condominium terraces, for family consumption only. The major problem of this cultivation, only in rare cases specialized, is linked, in fact, to prices that are not competitive with those of the countries from which it is imported. If in Italy, from 10 kg of fresh chilli pepper you get 1 kg of dried product, ground into 100% pure powder and marketable for 15 euros, the analogue produced by China has a cost of only 3 euros, and the result of technical of very coarse harvesting and processing, with which the seedling is entirely shredded – including petiole, leaves, roots -, with very few guarantees of quality and phytosanitary requirements very different from those complying with European regulations. The powder itself is easily sophisticated by its nature (remember, in the past, the case of the Sudan dye) and even when the chili is imported fresh or semi-processed from Turkey or Egypt, its quality is compromised by the use of many preservatives.
The high cost of producing chilli peppers in Italy, both fresh and transformed into powder, is due, above all, to the incidence of labor and highly professional transformation procedures, including ozone machinery for perfect drying. According to the CIA, therefore, there is a need for greater enhancement and protection of the product which, thanks to the microclimate and the orographic characteristics of the soil, finds in our country the ideal environment for its cultivation. The creation of denominations of territorial origin would give the consumer a guarantee of quality, traceability and healthiness and an added value adequate to the productive part, incentivized to increase its extensive cultivation, located mostly in Calabria (100 hectares, with 25% of production), Basilicata , Campania, Lazio and Abruzzo. This would meet the ever-increasing demand of the food industry, which produces spicy sauces and salamis, without forgetting exports, with the demand for sauces and condiments from large food companies, among which those of the Netherlands stand out. which currently represent the destination of 50% of the chili pepper production of Calabria.
The Italian production system, in addition to quality certifications, would also need a modernization of processing techniques to reduce production costs, starting with the varietal improvement of the cultivars, to obtain fruits concentrated on the upper and external part of the plant, more easily. detachable in harvesting operations with facilitating machines.