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Italy: spreading the net wider?

15/12/2017 - François-Xavier Branthôme - Lire en français
Soon a single interbranch organization for all of Italy

Place of origin labeling for raw materials, defending Made in Italy products, fighting against the exploitation of cheap immigrant labor, enhancing the value of peeled tomatoes, redefining the relationships within the industry... These were just some of the topics that came up during the ANICAV General Assembly, which was held on 24 November in Naples during the fifth edition of the "Filo Rosso Del Pomodoro" event.

While it is losing value both on its own domestic market and on the export market, the Italian industry can only gain in competitiveness if it is willing to extend the scope of its collaborations. The Italian tomato processing industry knows that it can henceforth count on the application by the European Commission of new Italian legislation on the labeling of tomato products in order to contribute to re-energizing the sector. But it also knows that it must evolve towards a new structure, within which agricultural organizations are expected to play a major role, given that the South Central region will soon have its own Interbranch Organization, whose official recognition is already being examined by the Ministry of Agricultural Policy.

A difficult market situation
In addition to these decisive conclusions for the future of the Italian industry, the ANICAV General Meeting presented the most recent results of the 2017 season. Surfaces planted with processing tomatoes covered more than 65 000 ha throughout the country – matching planted surfaces of the previous season – providing a crop of 5.26 million tonnes this year. Processed volumes in the South Central region increased by 6.6%, while those processed in the north of the country dropped by 4%.

Antonio Ferraioli, ANICAV President
In his report to the meeting, ANICAV President Antonio Ferraioli underlined the importance of this sector, which constitutes "one of the strong points of agriculture in Italy, which is the third biggest processor in the world after the United States and China." With a turnover of more than EUR 3 billion, mostly achieved thanks to exports abroad, where 60% of the crop is sold, this sector continues to be one of the most dynamic despite the drop in value of the peeled tomato category. "The canned tomatoes production segment is one of the areas in which the Italian food industry excels, and it plays a frontline role in the national economy. It is one of the biggest Italian industries in the field of fruit and vegetable production, both in terms of income and in terms of the volume produced."
Indeed, the Italian industry remains concerned by the slowdown observed both on the national market and on the export market. Volumes consumed within the country have been contracting, and the drop recorded last year continued over the period running September 2016-September 2017, with a dip of 1.9% in terms of value, despite a slight recovery in volume. 
This contraction has occurred alongside a drop in export volumes, with data for the first eight months of the year indicating decreases of 6% in terms of volume and 7.1% in terms of value, linked to a significant decrease in sales to Europe (-7.9%), particularly to Germany (-82%), as well as a significant reduction of paste exports to Africa (-19.8%). However, in this worrying context, the main positive signals have been coming from the American market, which has recorded growth in terms of value (+12.1%) and in terms of volume (+9.9%), involving all product categories.

Towards an integration of the two interbranch organizations
Beyond the advantages presented by "made in Italy" tomato products, another cornerstone needs to be found as a basis for growth, explained ANICAV Director Giovanni De Angelis, who is counting on the South, and on the transformation of what is still only the South Central District into a real Interbranch Organization. 
"On 21 November, the General Meeting of the South Central Tomato District unanimously voted for a transformational process and a change of the association's statutes in order to get the District acknowledged as an Interbranch Organization. This procedure has already been submitted to the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, who is carrying out initial verifications." 
"In this way," added De Angelis, "we will add the finishing touch to the interbranch framework – the current Nord Italia IO – by bringing in the South Central IO. We will then have two Interbranch Organizations working according to the logic of the different production regions, and taking account of different needs; that said, integration should occur in a relatively brief time-span, with the ANICAV being well positioned to carry out this integration as it is associated with both production regions."

Sources: AgroNotizie, FreshPlaza, Affaritaliani

Some complementary data
The income generated by exports of tomato products has been stagnating over the past two years, at approximately EUR 1.675 billion.
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