Dried fig industry: progress and challenges
The fig tree is cultivated in the Mediterranean Basin for many millennia mainly for its sun-dried fruits. Today, the Mediterranean countries and the regions possessing hot and dry summers have the top ranks in the world dried fig production and trade. Sun-drying has been and still is used as a preservation method to extend the shelf-life of the fragile fig fruit, and provide easy storage and long-distance transportation under ambient conditions. Traditionally, dried fig fruit, accepted as a holy fruit in all monotheistic religions, was consumed during the holy periods and Europe was the main market destination. As the scientific findings unfolded its health benefits, dried fig consumption increased not only in the traditional markets but also created new markets. Parallel to this increasing demand, new producing countries appear in the world market. However, the demand increases more than the production. Fig is grown under low-input management systems. Therefore, conversion to organic systems parallel to the demand of health conscious consumers is a rising trend not only in Europe but also in the USA. The dried fig industry is trying to develop new products that are natural (no additives or colorings), packed in small sizes, sometimes enriched with nuts or seeds and fit for urban consumers. Even if health properties trigger dried fig consumption, quality and safety of the final product still plays a crucial role in the world trade. The fig cultivar that is used in drying and drying method affect the quality and the production cost and thus the competitiveness in the global market. Pest damage ad remains and mycotoxins are the major challenges. Mycotoxins, mostly formed while fig fruit start ripening on the tree, are the major threat in all producing countries. Good agricultural and management practices and removal of low quality and contaminated fruit at processing level are the only methods used to prevent or reduce contamination. Introducing new cultivars for drying and innovative healthy dried fig products are still the major challenges waiting solution.
Aksoy, U. (2021). Dried fig industry: progress and challenges. Acta Hortic. 1310, 157-164
sun-drying, dried figs, consumption, mycotoxins, storage pests