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Italian lemons must plan for uncertain future

Lemon groves in Amalfi are challenged by tourism and globalization

Italian lemons must plan for uncertain future

Claudia Astarita

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Luigi "Gigino" Aceto is a 78 years old men in the middle of a successfull six generations lemon business. He leaves in the Amalfi coast, where he has been spending all his life taking care of his precious lemon trees wearing a yellow lemon t-shirts.

In a country where 90 percent of businesses have fewer than 15 employees, Gigino's family is now struggling to carry on its heritage of lemon cultivation. The whole Aceto family was born and raised among lemon trees. Everything started when his ancestors bought the land as tenant farmers, and the business kept on growing thanks to the new ideas coming from the younger generations.

Recently, the dream of continuing with this precious and unique business for several more centuries has been put seriously at risk, as the land on the Amalfi Coast has become far more valuable for luxury tourism than for high-quality lemons.

However, tourism is not the only challenge the Aceto family is currently facing. Globalization and modernization are also putting a lot of pressures on the family. Gigino's lemons can be considerea a niche product, prized for their low acidity and delicate flavor, which is something that the Acetos aim at preserving preferring quality over quantity, tradition over expansion.

Gigino Aceto wants the lemon business to stay in the family, allowing it to grow as long as there will be new family members available to take care of it. One of his sons, Marco, runs the production side of the company, La Valle dei Mulini, making limoncello liquor, lemon honey and other sweet products from the lemons. Marco's wife works in the family shop selling the products in the town's touristy main square, and his other son, Salvatore, recently left his job to go back to the lemon groves.

Amalfi lemons are unique in the world, and they deserve to be nurtired. Unfortunately, not all producers are as determined as Mr. Aceto is, and several lemon groves have been recently abandoned.  The future of the Amalfi lemons could be saved thanks to a consortium making it easier for local producers to stay there, but the revenues coming from the tourist sectors seems too much appealing, expecially for the younger generations.

Segui @castaritaHK

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