Maltese Bambinella pears have started being sold at Marks & Spencer in London, and they have been a huge success.

The fruit is being exported on a trial basis by the Ta' Qali Producers Group. Three consignments have been sent so far this summer and another two will follow.

"This has been quite a breakthrough. We will be exporting five tons this year and the prospects are very good," Peter Axisa, speaking for the group, said.

He said that contacts with the company which supplies the famous British store started a few months ago and officials were sent to Malta to inspect the crop.

Very strict pesticide tests were made, but this is a type of fruit on which very little pesticide is used, Mr Axisa said. All locally used pesticides were approved, except for one which is used by very few farmers, and whose use was discontinued.

"When the fruits started to ripen we sent them samples, they tested them and on July 24 we sent the first export consignment," Mr Axisa said.

"The fruit was very well received, the Daily Express even had a small article about it. Other supermarkets have also shown interest."

Mr Axisa said he was very pleased that the local farmers had followed the instructions given to them.

"We concentrated on a few farmers, and they went out of their way to ensure the desired quality. The idea now is to rope in more.

He said a fair price was being offered and the farmers had a guaranteed price from start to finish.

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