Italy: water is a vital issue
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Mutti: "Drought could be fatal for the tomato industry"
"The most crucial issue for our industry is the water supply. The water crisis could be fatal for our industry and this is the reason why we cannot take this issue lightly. We need a clearly laid out work-plan, so that measures can be set up as soon as December to protect us in the future," stated Fransesco Mutti.
The water crisis has caused major problems for the Italian tomato industry over the past season. A recent encounter between growers and the Regional Councilor for Agriculture, Simona Caselli, has been used as an opportunity to take a closer look at the situation of the processing season that has until now seen 1.2 million tonnes of tomatoes processed, which is approximately 46.13% of the contract volume. (See our article on the mid-season situation in Italy).
The IO and regional authorities have come together to seek solutions for protecting the industry
An unrelenting enemy threatens the processing tomato chain of northern Italy every year. With a 70% decrease in rainfall in the regions of Parma and Piacenza this year, the water crisis has become a major issue for tomato crops. This is the adversary that the Northern Italy Interbranch Organization for the Tomato Processing Industry (IO) wants to overcome, in close cooperation with the regional authorities of Emilia Romagna, by setting up mid-term solutions that will allow these threats to be overcome and respond to the needs of the industry. The IO is offering to put together and coordinate a work-group in charge of finding solutions and presenting them in a coherent form to the relevant institutions, so that they can be adopted rapidly – the first of which consists in building dams in order to collect and store water resources.
This approach has been the major topic of the visit by Regional Agriculture Councilor Simona Caselli to northern Italy's tomato industry, where she met representatives of processors and growers' organizations, as well as company executives of Mutti and Columbus, along with the President of the IO Tiberio Rabboni, in order to clarify a midseason update.
The IO President expressed his agreement with the statements of Mr. Mutti: "A lot remains to be done in order to fight against climate change. The exceptions that have been granted by regional authorities to ensure vital minimum water withdrawal from the rivers have been an advantage, along with permanent efforts invested by the industry into finding varieties that are less demanding in terms of water resources and further improving drip irrigation systems and water recycling techniques for processing plants.
But it is also necessary to rapidly reduce the losses caused by obsolete distribution installations and, above all, to set up new irrigation resources in the context of a system that is able to respond to the requirements of the tomato processing industry as well as other agricultural sectors in this important territory for the Italian food industry.”
Regional Councilor Simona Caselli stated once again that "the fight against climate change and its consequences for agriculture has long been at the heart of regional authority commitments. An 18 million subsidy will soon be approved for setting up a 250 000 m³ reservoir, while we will also be examining, in coordination with the Environment Commission, the current water management plan in order to determine new locations. We also remain particularly committed to research and innovation in order to support new economical irrigation techniques, in order to promote precision agriculture and generalize the use of varieties that are less demanding in terms of water. The rural development plan aims at making available, through the workgroups on innovation, important resources of approximately EUR 50 million, of which more than half has already been allocated. But other resources can be used for these same objectives, in the context of the fruit and vegetable COM, particularly thanks to the operational programs of growers’ organizations."
Commenting on the current season, Councilor Caselli remembered several of the crucial stages that marked the preparation and early days of the tomato season, like the crises that hit Ferrara Foods and Copador, which were solved thanks to the commitment of various partners within the industry. She also referred to the end of April frosts and the drought for which a state of emergency has only been declared for the provinces of Parma and Piacenza. On location at the Columbus plant, Simona Caselli declared a particular interest in the innovative techniques used in the production sector of organic tomatoes, a segment that is "developing rapidly", in the words of Cristina Bertolini and Fabio Santi. The objective of Columbus is to "ensure the loyalty to organic processing tomato cultivation of the area of Emilia Romagna that is located between Parma, Reggio and Modena.”
Source: Press Release OI Pomodoro Industria Nord Italia
(See also “Half-way point for the North Italy crop”).