Nicolo Morandi, Police captain said he and his team have already started preparations for September. A minimum of 6 officers will patrol during daytime, and the night could see almost 12. Their helicopter would also be launched, if the need arises. From Mount Etna’s northern foothills, in Italy’s island Sicily, Capt. Morandi adds that they would operate various precautionary measures.
Strange as it may seem, he and his colleagues are planning for the pistachio harvest this year.
Bronte’s green pistachio, the world’s best variety calls Sicily its home. Centered on Bronte, pistachio trees are spread across 3,000 hectares along Mt. Etna’s slopes a volcano that is still active.
Albeit having a low share of worldwide production of pistachios (just 1%), Sicily’s green gold are definitely the most expensive, with 1kg (2.2lb) unshelled seeds selling typically at $17.40 – more than twice the cost of pistachios from Iran and the U.S.
A local trade firm Cosorzio di Tutela’s top official Enrico Cimbali said 230 farmers are authorized in the defined area in Bronte, which is protected as controlled origin area. Connoisseurs say that premium costs can be charged since these seeds taste better, and stay bright green longer.
With such high values for the crop, farmers face the threat of thieves during harvest time. They usually come in cars during the middle of the night, and loot the trees.
In 2009, when 300kg of Bronte’s pistachios were stolen during harvesting time, the town’s mayor asked help from the police to protect their crop. From the next harvest onwards (alternate years only, hence 2011), the country’s national police force Carabinieri have introduced helicopter patrols and increased their force on ground. Farmers welcomed the service, and almost felt relieved to experience the presence of the police at night.
With exports accounting for nearly 80% of the production, the industry aims to boost it tremendously. Many Bronte pistachio businesses market their products online, and participate in various trade exhibitions, like those at Dubai and Nuremberg. But they seek more support to understand consumption habits better to supply in more markets.