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Italy: price negotiations for the 2021 season have started

02/02/2021 - François-Xavier Branthôme - 2021 Season - Lire en français
A favorable context and expectations

Negotiations started in January between growers and processors regarding the price of processing tomatoes in northern Italy for the 2021 harvest.

According to a press release from the Coldiretti Emilia Romagna, published by local Italian press sources, this year “growers have come to the negotiating table strengthened by the success of a production schedule included in 2020 contracts that worked well and gave results as anticipated in the signed contracts.” The association has insisted on the benefits of “decisions to determine planted surfaces and maximum quantities for the allocation to each PO”, but regrets however that "the price of tomatoes this past season has not yet been satisfactory.”

For Nicola Bertinelli, regional President of Coldiretti Emilia Romagna, “it will no longer be enough to agree only on the quantities to be produced and delivered, but it will be essential that the entire sector aligns itself on a project to promote tomatoes grown in Italy.” For this new contract, continued the Coldiretti representative, “it is absolutely necessary to continue the 'programming' introduced with clarity and transparency during the last season regarding the quantities committed, both on the agricultural side and on the industrial side, so that we can quickly reach the signature of the framework contract for 2021, and thus guarantee correct planning and price assurance for growers.

Coldiretti has also called for an improvement in the “productivity scale”, notably concerning a revision that would fix the Brix degree from the “Base100” at 4.85, in order to better take into account the average degree recorded last year at the district level and thus align the “negotiated reference price” with the “real price”. 
Given the difficulties in harvesting the product, such as those that arose in 2020, it has also become essential to plan the transplanting period of the young plants and consequently the harvest of the product, in a homogeneous manner throughout the processing season, while providing an economic incentive mechanism for early and late harvests.

In his commentary, regional President Bertinelli declared that “in future, it will be essential that the whole sector is involved in a project to promote Italian tomatoes. Currently, it is essential to adopt a new approach, taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Food Districts, which bring together companies, citizens, associations, institutions and universities, in order to obtain better collaboration on common actions, aimed at organizing, supporting, promoting and enhancing the value of the entire sector, with a very high quality product and a well-defined territory.”

The context of discussions
In the Ferrara region, one of the three main growing provinces, along with Foggia and Piacenza, the pressure of sanitary confinements on processed tomato products has been clearly identified by Confagricoltura operators as an industry driver: the slowdown in sales in recent years has evolved into an increase of 7%, and local players are banking on the upturn in consumption and “the difficulties” experienced by competitor countries to “produce” a good trade performance.

Tomato cultivation represents a very important resource for the Ferrara region, which is one of the main areas of Europe for work related to this industrial sector. “This is a crop that must be preserved while also taking into account the constraints of the market, being aware that one must not produce more than what the processing companies can handle, so as not to have to abandon good product in the fields.” These words were spoken as a warning issued on 25 January by the President of Confagricoltura Ferrara Gianluca Vertuani, taking note of the major pressure exerted on processing companies by the increase in the consumption of tomato products – a strong point of the region of Ferrara.

According to operators of the Italian tomato industry, the quantities processed in 2020 recorded an increase of +8% compared to 2019 and +5% compared to the average level for the period running 2017-2019, mainly driven by operations in northern Italy, where an increase in production of around 16% was reported.
Account should also be taken of “the significant impact of the Covid crisis on retail sales of canned tomatoes, both in Italy and abroad, with an increase of around 7% that has interrupted the downward trend recorded over the last ten years”, which in fact follows the pattern of “the scenario observed in the catering sector, which normally absorbs a third of the production of canned tomatoes, but which recorded a sharp drop in sales due to the lockdown.”

According to the report published in December by the ISMEA (see additionnal information below), concluded Confagricoltura Ferrara President Gianluca Vertuani, “the recovery in domestic consumption and the significant contraction in production of some important tomato growing countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Chile, represent an element of optimism for the months to come with regard to the Italian tomato processing industry.”

Sources: informacibo.it, ferraraitalia.it, lanuovaferrara.gelocal.it
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