Italy: mid-season uncertainty
- François-Xavier Branthôme
- 2019 Season - Read in French
South-central Italy: the harvest is expected to continue until October
Although the harvest has progressed well beyond the half-way mark, there is still a degree of uncertainty hanging over the 2019 processing tomato season, which started about ten days late in the South due to bad weather and is expected to continue longer than usual, most likely until the end of September or possibly into the first few days of October. That is how Maurizio Gardini, President of Conserve Italia, commented on the current season, stating in August that crop estimates could only reasonably be expected during the month of September, "which is a decisive month for production and quality".
Press conference at the Cirio plant in Mesagne (BR). Maurizio Gardini, President of Conserve Italia, is second from the left.
"With revenue that exceeds EUR 3 billion, the Italian tomato processing industry is one of the biggest in the food sector," continued the President of the Bologna-based consortium, one of the primary tomato operators in Italy and in the world, with an annual average of 400 000 tonnes processed.
"Our country is a world leader for this market, and the Italian industry [...] can further gain in value and prestige by focusing on innovation and by increasingly paying attention to environmental protection and to the strategic issues of transparency and legal compliance, particularly in the southern regions."
On this point, Maurizio Gardini clearly states: "Whereas the tomato harvest is completely carried out by machine throughout the region of northern Italy, hand-picked crops are still common in the South, even if companies are increasingly committed to reducing this form of harvest. As for Conserve Italia, we now only receive about 2% of our tonnage from hand-picked fields, mainly where the stony ground makes it impossible to use mechanical harvesters or where other labor-intensive crops require large numbers of manual pickers anyway."
President Gardini also underlined the fact that Conserve Italia requires its members and partner growers to comply strictly with "a number of commitments, notably concerning the adoption of best practices in terms of job safety, health and well-being, as well as the respect of contracts and salaries, in order to prevent the illegal exploitation of workers within the tomato processing industry."
Northern Italy: bad spring weather has impacted production
In the northern region, the situation has been a cause for concern. The Italian press has reported that potentially major decreases in production may occur in Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, mainly as a result of bad weather conditions during springtime. "The season is behind schedule by about a week compared to a normal year," explained a technician working with a processing company in Emilia-Romagna, "and we expect to finish the harvest on 30 September. But more worrying is the drop in yields, with a production shortfall that could reach 17 to 20% [locally]."
As of 10 September, 70% of the surfaces have been harvested and operators are reporting good quality (deductions of approximately 4.5%), an excellent color and a high Brix value (above 4.8°, according to professional sources). "Problems are mainly observed in regions that were hit by hail, where the fruit has often not even been harvested, which also explains the sharp drop in overall yields."
"Stop and go" is costly
The ANICAV has echoed this observation of a situation that is potentially penalizing for the results of operators, and it has pointed out the particularly negative effects of repeated "stop and go" procedures in terms of operating costs for energy and processing yields.
In a press release from 9 September, the ANICAV mentions "a difficult year for Italian tomato processing industries: the bad weather conditions in May and July delayed the start of the season by over a week, with a resulting impact on agricultural and industrial yields, leading to slower rates of delivery and therefore of processing operations in general. This situation is expected to lead to a notable increase in costs for companies."
The Italian association particularly insisted on the economic consequences of the repeated "stop and go" interruptions of installations. It also drew attention to the impact of a prolonged season, leading to increased energy costs and an alteration of industrial yields due to the use of larger quantities of raw materials in order to maintain product quality that is up to the level guaranteed by applicable standards.
In the words of Antonio Ferraioli, President of the ANICAV, "it is currently hazardous to try to provide forecasts. However, given the increase, even slight, in the number of hectares planted, and on the basis of the surfaces that remain to be harvested and the agricultural yields of the period, it is reasonable to expect a final production throughout the country that should not be lower than last year's, despite the uncertainties linked to the weather during the month of September."
Source: freshplaza.it, anicav.it
Professional or non-profit organisation See details
CONSERVE ITALIA Soc. Coop. Agr.
Tomato processor See details