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News

Northern Italy: an agreement for processing tomato at 86 Euros/mT - UPDATED

06/05/2019 - François-Xavier Branthôme - 2019 Season - Read in French
The price paid for raw materials is up 8%

Unlike what was announced early April, 2019 price negotiations were not concluded during the latest Cibus conference (Parma, 10-11 April). The framework agreement for processing tomato contracts during the 2019 season in northern Italy was finally signed on 3 May, with a reference price of EUR 86 per metric tonne (mT), which is approximately 8% more than the price granted last year for raw materials (EUR 79.75 /mT). This agreement was reached after a long period of intense discussion, and detailed quality parameters still need to be determined. The outcome of these discussions applies to tomatoes grown throughout the northern region as a whole, and it is exactly lined up with the level fixed in December by Italtom in the Ferrara region. 
The Coldiretti has expressed its dissatisfaction, stating that "the expectations [of growers] vary greatly in terms of price, quality parameters [for raw materials] and scheduling." The president of this association, Marco Crotti, expressed regret at "the considerable delay that has led to the outcome only becoming clear at a point in the season when no further adjustments are possible", while acknowledging that an increase in price has nonetheless been obtained. He pointed out that this progression nonetheless "is insufficient to account for production costs and the risks that the industry has had to face in recent years." 
 
 Giovanni Lambertini
As for the Confagricoltura Piacenza, it expressed its satisfaction at the 8% price increase, but Giovanni Lambertini, president of the Processed Tomato Products Section, remains critical of the "missed opportunity to review the set of quality parameters, which continue to be a sword of Damocles hanging over the sector, thereby depriving growers of the control they could have over the price paid by processors." For Lambertini, the decrease to 4.95°Brix (compared to the 5.0°Brix threshold last year) of the "neutral point" after which tomatoes are paid at the full rate is not ideal because it does not take account of the average values recorded by the IO in 2018 (4.78° in weighted average data, which was already higher than the previous year).

"An agreement that satisfies neither the agricultural upstream nor the industrial downstream."
These are the words with which the President of the Unionalimentari Confapi Piacenza, Gian Mario Bosoni, commented on the agreement reached at the beginning of May fixing the price of processing tomatoes in the North of Italy. Regarding the regrets expressed by the agricultural organizations at their failure to obtain all the changes for which they had hoped in terms of quality parameters, Bosoni, who is also the CEO of Emiliana Conserve SpA, explained that these changes must occur progressively and not apply suddenly from one year to the next.
As the head of Emiliana Conserve, he also insisted on the fact that "processors cannot absorb an increase in the real price of tomatoes that exceeds the nominal market increase, as they are not able to pass on to their clients such a potential increase in costs." He also pointed out another peculiarity of the Italian market, which is linked to the fact that these operators are processing Europe's most costly raw material, and he added that the industry is currently "in a difficult market situation for tomato-based products: the surplus in industrial production and the slowdown of consumption recorded in recent months make it difficult, even impossible, to pass on cost increases, a situation that puts a lot of pressure on processors."

Petti: industry contracts
 Pasquale Petti
This notable value increase in the price of raw materials in northern Italy is reminiscent of the measures taken in the context of the 2018 season by some of the bigger operators of the tomato processing industry in this region.
Indeed, in an area that is facing major difficulties in terms of water management and a drastic reduction in the surfaces planted with processing tomatoes, the Petti group (Italian Food) decided in October last year to support Tuscany growers by paying up to EUR 100 /tonne for tomatoes, with the objective of producing premium quality products guaranteed to be 100% made with Tuscany-grown tomatoes. Italian Food decided to team up with all growers (past, present and potential ones for the future) who could grow tomatoes for the Petti group within a radius of 100 km around the processing plant, and to set up with them a multiannual purchasing contract that includes guarantees regarding price and volume. In addition to the advantages linked to this big increase in the value of operations, the purpose was to allow the company to save on the cost of transport, while guaranteeing a better remuneration for growers. Petti has asked growers and POs to commit themselves to the scheduled delivery of certain volumes and to comply with quality requirements in the context of an incentive program that will reward growers who satisfy these expectations. 

Mutti, remuneration increase in 2018
 Pomodorino d’Oro
As for the Mutti group, in 2018, it continued to invest in quality and innovation in order to generate value throughout the industry, based on the price paid for raw tomatoes delivered to the production plant. In the context of its incentive and premiums policy for good practices implemented in cultivation, the company paid an average price to its growers that was 6% above the contractual reference price of the 2018 season and approximately 16% more than the average price paid in northern Italy.
"The search for quality," declared Francisco Mutti, "means that we practice a higher price policy, paying extra for better quality and giving growers an average of 16% more than the rest of the market gets in northern Italy. This benefits our growers, considering that during this season, the differential of Brix levels has been on average 7% compared to the average value of the market, with fluctuations ranging from 8% at the beginning of the season to 5% at the end of September. This price differential has almost doubled compared to the average of the past five years.
"For products that are typical of southern Italy, like cherry tomatoes and peeled canned tomatoes, a particularly hard hitting approach has been adopted, with very strong incentives for quality, driven by a price index that can reach up to 30% more compared to the base reference price." 

For the Mutti group, the 2018 season provided the opportunity of reaching another crucial objective, which saw the crop being 100% machine harvested for all varieties of tomatoes throughout the production zones, with the aim of breaking free from all forms of unqualified manual labor and supporting the implementation of better agricultural and social practices.

Source: ilpiacenza.it, piacenza24.eu, liberta.it, piacenzasera.it/, EFA News, freshplaza.it,
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