ROME, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Italy will start using a cutting-edge technology to guarantee the authenticity of one of the country's commercial products.
Revelers take part in a fight with oranges during an annual carnival battle in Ivrea, Italy, March 3, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
The Italian Ministry of Agriculture announced this week that it would use blockchain technology -- a complex digital verification method that facilitates crypto currencies like Bitcoin -- to assure that the all blood-red Sicilian oranges sold abroad as such are the real things.
The oranges, which have an orange-color skin and deep red flesh inside the fruit, have a protected geographical status in Italy, similar to certain high-end cheese and wines. The oranges are exported to dozens of countries around the world.
The majority of blood-red oranges are grown in Italy, but they are not unique to the country, according to Elena Albertini, vice-president of the Sicilian red orange protection consortium.
"There's a unique characteristic to the Sicilian red oranges, which have a special balance between sweetness and acidity," Albertini told Xinhua. "There's a risk that other oranges grown elsewhere, which have the red flesh but a different overall taste and quality, could be sold internationally as if they were the authentic Sicilian product."
Blockchain would help guard against that. Each package of the products, which range in size from 500 grams to 5 kilograms or more would include a special blockchain "tag" that will record every step of the package's passage from farm to market.
"Soon, we will know where the oranges are at any point on the supply chain," Albertini said.
According to Antonio Amati, director of the Italy division for Almaviva, a technology consultancy, the blockchain "tag" will help monitor the conditions under which the oranges are being stored, progress during the transportation of the fruit, and ripeness. But most importantly, Amati said, they will help guarantee that the authentic product arrives for consumers.
"By using blockchain technology it will make it impossible for oranges from a different area and of a different quality to slip into the system and to be sold as if they were the authentic Sicilian blood red orange product," Amati said in an interview. "This process is already being used for some products like high end wines or the best olive oils. This will put the Sicilian oranges on the same level in terms of the consumer's ability to be secure they are buying the authentic product."
The Italian authorities unveiled the plan in a special event held on Dec. 12 in Rome. Amati said the new systems will be fully used by Feb. 1, 2020.
"Basically, we are creating a comprehensive system for the Sicilian red oranges that over a period of time will become more common for many different types higher end products," Amati said.