Team of experts guarantees the quality of organic Venosta Valley apples

Christian Gamper, Head of Organic Quality VIP

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If it says organic on the label, it must be organic on the inside. Constant controls and tests to guarantee the quality and food safety of organic products are the prerequisite for this. These basic tasks are in the hands of the organic quality department of VIP, the association of Venosta Valley producers for fruit and vegetables. The department is made up of the association’s technical experts and the quality managers of the member cooperatives and is coordinated by Christian Gamper, Head of Organic Quality.

The organic quality department of VIP continuously defines guidelines and quality criteria that the organic farmers of the Venosta Valley cooperatives have to comply with. Furthermore, it plans the time and procedure of the organic fruit harvest and all related activities. What are the forecasts for quality and harvest this year? “This year we had a good blossom and, in contrast to last year, little frost. The thinning of the apple trees, which contributes to the quality of the fruit, was also ideal. Therefore, we expect good quality organic apples this year. So far, we have recorded little russeting and no hail damage to the fruit. Also, in terms of quantity, the predictions for the coming harvest are positive, especially due to the larger fruit sizes of the apples.

Only the organic Golden Delicious variety is expected to show a decline in harvest quantity,” explains Christian Gamper. In order to be able to forecast the harvest, the technical experts use the method of T-stage measurement, which can be used to determine fruit development. “We have just completed these measurements. From the results we can conclude that this year the harvest will probably start a week earlier than last year.”

The many tasks of the organic quality department also include tests to improve product quality: “We are in the process of testing and verifying certain measures to extend the shelf life of organic apples and thus avoid wastage,” Gamper explains. Another important activity also lies in checking for possible residues on the organic apples, which is done directly on the fruit shortly before harvesting. “An accredited inspection body carries out up to 700 analyses in autumn. This enables us to guarantee our customers that our organic goods do not contain any unacceptable residues,” says Christian Gamper.

Furthermore, the organic quality department, in cooperation with the Research Centre Laimburg and the South Tyrolean Advisory Council for Fruit and Wine Cultivation, regularly checks whether the organic farmers are complying with the guidelines for organic cultivation and analyses the causes of any quality deviations.

Currently, the individual organic farmers in Val Venosta are also undergoing inspections for the internationally recognized Global GAP and GRASP certification. Food safety, measures for environmental protection as well as occupational safety and health protection for employees are checked.

Every organic farm in Venosta Valley is inspected at least three times a year by an accredited inspection body. If they meet the requirements, they can receive various certifications: the EU-Organic, Bioland or Demeter, Bio Suisse, Global GAP, GRASP, Agrios, Tesco-Nurture or Brasil Organic labels. Since this year, not only the apples, but also the organic cherries from Val Venosta are Global GAP and GRASP certified.

Currently, Venosta Valley has a little more than 1,000 hectares of recognized organic cultivation area, and recently an additional 70 hectares have been replanted. “Each organic farmer reports annually to the VIP how many trees have been cleared and how many have been replanted”, says Gamper.

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