It was on July 4-8,1977, when apricot researchers from 22 countries convened in Erivan, the capital of then Soviet Armenia. The International Society of Horticultural Science (ISHS) has invited researchers, producers and members of the trade for an assessment of the apricot situation in Europe. Professor Dr. S.A. Pieniazek, correspondent for Fruit World, noted:“Compared to other deciduous fruit the apricot production in the post war years did not increase the same way as other stone fruit like peaches and necarines”.The apricot specialists met in Armenia, because this country is known as one of the places where it originated as a cultivated fruit; others are central China, Tibet and Uzbekistan. World production of apricots is estimated at 2.5 million t, half of which is located in Central Asian countries. In the seventies the European production was 1.2 million t and went down to 850,000 t, in 2013 to 500,000 .
The nice colours of sweetness
Their names represent a multitude of different tastes like Goldstrike, Fantasme, Flopria, Helena Roussillon, Tardif de tain, Bergarouge and Kioto, just to mention a few. In France there are much more of them, fifty varieties in total, whereas in other producing countries three or four make up for the total of the production. The French production amounted to 165,300 t in 2012 on 14,000 ha, 7% more than 2011. Due to inclement weather conditions the volume in 2013 will be 15% less compared with 2012, but will match more or less with the average figures of 2007-2011. The early varieties will appear about two weeks later on the markets.
The apricot ranges third in the French fruit production after apples, peaches and nectarines. In Europe France is No. 2 after Italy, followed by Spain and Greece. Two third of marketable apricots are totally red or with a distinct red blush. The most important outlet for French apricots is the domestic market for fresh consumption as well as for the processing industry, and the exports mainly to Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK have a share of one third of the total volume. The East European countries are new customers for the French apricots, and as of last year the fruits arrived in good condition even in Moscow. The diversity of colours and tastes has helped in meeting the requirements of foreign markets.
There are three main production areas in France, which are covering the Spring and Summer months of end of May until September. The southernmost area is made up by the region Pyrénées Orientales bordering Spain, another one is Languedoc Roussillon et Provence and the third one is Vallée du Rhône with the Départements Ardèche, Drôme and Isère. The southern region around the city of Perpignan is mostly flat. Apricot plantations go together with vine grapes and some field crops like tomatoes and artichokes. This changes completely in the mountaneous areas of Gard and Vaucluse, where apricot trees are found up to 600 m of altitude. Vincent Faugier, Association de Gouvernance Economique des Fruits et Légumes, says:”In the southwestern areas apricots are grown in the valley, whereas vine grapes are found on the slopes of the mountains. In the départements Gard, Vaucluse and Bouches du Rhône it is exactly the other way round: apricots on the hills up to 600 m, vinegrapes in the valleys.” He was referring again to the diversity of colours.”We have the white-fleshed and the yellow fleshed apricots, and we have an abundance of orange, yellow and red colours, each of them with a very distinct taste. This is part of our marketing campaign under the slogan ‘Follow the calendar of our summer-fresh taste’.”
Diversity of the offer is a ‘must’
Sabine Alary-Clariana, co-president of the newly established Section Interprofessionnelle de première mise en marchés abricot (SIPMM), says that the diversity of varieties is a ‘must’ in order to serve the customers between May and September with fruit of high quality.”Our experimental stations are continuously looking for the most promising varieties, which have to be adapted thoroughly to the local conditions of weather, soil and micro-climate”, Alary said. The SIPMM has been established in February 2012 as a working group of the Association Interprofessionnelle des fruit et legumes frais (Interfel). Daniel Soares, responsible for international marketing at Interfel:”We are aiming to bring the French apricot again to the attention of consumers. One of the activities is the broadening of the varietal calendar. We have an educational programme and will present the apricot even during the ‘Tour de France’, which will of course touch the production areas of the apricot.”
Back in 1977, the scientists in Erivan made an effort to stimulate the production and encourage producers to be creative in planting new varieties. 36 years later France with a very strong campaign is using all methods of marketing mix to bring the apricot back into consumers’ minds and as Yves Gaillard, Commercial Director of “Les Vergers de l’Hermitage”, pointed out:”We are striving to be the best.” It seems that the south of Italy and some areas in the province of Murcia and Aragón in Spain are following suit in this trend. mostly flat. Apricot plantations got together with vine grapes and some fieldcrops like tomatoes and