Police captain Nicolo Morandi says that he and his colleagues are already making ready for September.
Not less than six officers are going to patrol within the daytime, and 12 at evening. And if want be, they are going to launch the police helicopter.
“We are going to function quite a lot of precautionary operations,” he says.
Capt Morandi is talking from the northern foothills of Mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily.
It might initially appear incongruous, however what he and his workforce have began planning for is that this yr’s pistachio harvest.
Sicily is residence to the world’s most-prized number of the seed – the pistacchio verde di Bronte, or inexperienced pistachio from Bronte.
Centred in town of Bronte, the pistachio timber develop throughout some 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) on the slopes of Etna, an lively volcano.
Though Bronte pistachios account for simply 1% of world manufacturing of the crop, they’re simply the most costly.
Typically known as “Sicily’s inexperienced gold”, one kilogram (2.2lb) of the seeds, unshelled, sometimes prices 15.50 euros ($17.40; £13.45). That is greater than double the value of pistachios from the world’s two big producers – the US and Iran.
Aficionados say that the 230 authorised farmers throughout the outlined Bronte space, which has denominazione di origine controllata (DOC, or managed designation of origin) safety, can cost such a premium as a result of their seeds each style higher, and preserve their brilliant inexperienced color for longer.
Nevertheless, given the profitable nature of the crop, it attracts a seamless drawback throughout harvesting time – thieves.
These criminals flip up in vehicles at the hours of darkness, and attempt to make off with as many pistachios as they will.
Pistachio timber solely produce a crop each different yr, which in Sicily is in odd years, comparable to 2019, with the seeds being picked in September.
Again in 2009 thieves stole 300kg of Bronte pistachios throughout harvest time (greater than 4,600 euros value at right this moment’s costs), which led to the mayor of Bronte asking the police to do extra to guard the crop.
This resulted within the Carabinieri, Italy’s nationwide police power, introducing helicopter patrols from 2011, and placing extra officers on the bottom.
“Trustworthy residents welcome this service, as a result of harvest time is a really delicate second for our neighborhood,” says pistachio farmer Mario Prestianni.
“One night I used to be closing the gate of my property, and Carabinieri stopped me, asking loudly who I used to be, and what I used to be doing there. I felt relieved to have their presence.”
With 2019’s Bronte pistachio seeds now slowly forming after the timber flowered again in March, Mr Prestianni and everybody else is hoping for larger crop than the 1,250 tonnes produced in 2017. Totally dependant upon climate situations, that was down from 1,400 tonnes in 2015.
The trade can also be aiming to spice up exports, which at the moment account for some 80% of manufacturing. The most important consumers are France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and the USA.
“In our efforts to extend exports we do on-line advertising, and take part in a minimal of six exhibitions around the globe yearly,” says Francesco Di Sano, a Bronte-based pistachio businessman. “These embody tradeshows in Nuremberg and Dubai.
“[But] we want extra help on the promotion aspect, as a result of individuals from overseas do not know how one can attain us correctly.
“[And] a world accomplice would additionally assist us perceive totally different habits of consumption, in order that we will provide extra markets.”
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The city of Bronte estimates that the seed provides its financial system an revenue of 20 million euros a yr.
Along with the celebrated pistacchio verde di Bronte, it has meals corporations that course of Sicilian pistachios from exterior the DOC space, and even these sourced from abroad.
“Staff in Bronte are so long-term skilled, that a big high quality of overseas pistachio can also be processed right here,” says Vincenzo Capizzi, from the native Professional-Loco tourism group.
This processing work can vary from merely shelling the pistachios, to turning them into flours or pastes to be used as a cooking ingredient. The seeds function in quite a few Sicilian desserts, and savoury dishes comparable to spaghetti with pistachio pesto, to not overlook Italy’s ubiquitous pistachio gelato.
Bronte additionally holds an annual pistachio pageant, which attracts guests from throughout Europe.
Pistachio timber, that are native to the Center East, had been first launched to Sicily’s volcanic soil by the Moors, who dominated the Italian island throughout the Ninth-11th Centuries.
Right this moment the seeds are harvested in precisely the identical method – laboriously, by hand, one-by-one. Farmers comparable to Mr Prestianni spend all the harvest interval dwelling in huts subsequent to their valuable crop.
“After harvesting we shell the seeds and unfold them out to allow them to dry, by exposing them to the Sicilian solar for 3 days,” he says.
“After every sundown we should take away them to guard them from the humidity of the evening. We additionally should act shortly on web site to safeguard them from daylight rain.”
The seeds are then stocked in warehouses earlier than going to the native factories to be processed.
As he prepares for this September’s harvest, Mr Prestianni is comfortable that the police have additionally began their planning work.
“The [growing] space is much from the city centres,” he says. “We’re happy to have police patrolling at evening time as a way to keep away from armed thieves that could be coming utilizing a van to steal the crop in a single go.”