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Northern Italy: organic crops continue to increase in volume

15/05/2018 - Press release , François-Xavier Branthôme - Lire en français
The industry is instituting more quality checks in order to protect consumers

The production of organic processing tomatoes has increased in northern Italy, and with it, there has been an increase in the number of checks intended to ensure the reliability and sustainability of the sector. This is what the IO Pomodoro Nord Italia stated in a presentation of industry figures and results during the Cibus, which was held from 7 to 10 May in Parma. The Interbranch Organization explained that these extra checks will be carried out this year, going beyond legal requirements regarding organic certification, in order to reassure consumers that they are buying organic products that are healthy, sustainable and of the highest quality.

From 1 316 ha in 2015, the surfaces dedicated to organic processing tomatoes in northern Italy have extended to 2 310 hectares in 2017, which is 60% of the total Italian surfaces dedicated to this type of crop – and it is estimated that 2 700 hectares will be necessary this year to produce the quantities under contract with processing plants. In agricultural and industrial terms, it seems that growers are becoming increasingly specialized, and the same can be said for the 20 or so processing companies in northern Italy, which processed a total of 162 000 tonnes (metric, mT) last year.
The 2 310 hectares used to cultivate organic crops last year accounted for 6.6% of the total 34 932 hectares planted in northern Italy according to principles of integrated production, which is characterized by minimal use of pesticides.
Emilia Romagna is the main region for organic tomato cultivation. The province of Ferrara came first in 2017, with 1 500 hectares, ahead of Ravenna (350 hectares), Parma (184 hectares) and Piacenza (76 hectares).

The extension of planted acreage and the increase in organic tomato production has been accompanied, at the initiative of the IO, by a commitment on the part of industry operators in the North of the country to guarantee stricter controls than those required by the legislation. At the outcome of several meetings dedicated to these supplementary checks, which included the participation of Producers' Organizations and processing companies, a charter of good practice was drawn up and a formal paragraph has been added to the framework contract for 2018, signed by POs and by processors. "These extra checks have become the rule for the industry as a whole throughout northern Italy, providing guarantees regarding the reliability required by modern distribution networks and by final consumers. In other words, the industry in northern Italy is reliable because it is organized, transparent, accountable and self-regulating." 
From left to right MM. Rabboni (President of the IO Pomodoro Nord Italia), Luca Artioli (in charge of the "processing bureau" of the Op Apo Conerpo), Aldo Rodolfi (President of Rodolfi Mansueto Spa) and  Stefano Spelta, sales Director for Consorzio Casalasco del pomodoro

According to this scheme, organic tomato Producers' Organizations of northern Italy check that farms comply with the requirements of organic production. They supply technical advice for growers regarding the most appropriate varietal choices, seed purchases, cropping techniques, agronomic practices, and the management of weeds according to procedures stated in the specifications for organic tomato cultivation.
The POs will carry out the programmed self-control checks on location, sampling shipments scheduled for delivery, as well as on the leaves, roots and soil, in order to check for the absence of pesticide residues. They will implement traceability systems for organic shipments, from the harvest field to the processing factory. Finally, they will supply processors with certificates authorizing POs to distribute organic products, as well as the documentation regarding farms, cultivation methods and shipments delivered.

As for processing companies, they will comply with a system of procedures and checks of the organic quality of incoming shipments, extending the sampling and analyses carried out in field conditions by the POs. They will be required to check the validity of organic certifications held by POs and member growers, as well as the agronomic procedures applied to crops, and they must obtain from transport operators a formal declaration regarding the compliance of cleaning methods with the requirements of organic tomato transportation. They will also need to carry out their own analyses by sampling incoming shipments in order to confirm the absence of pesticides, and reserve dedicated processing lines for organic products (if necessary by alternating raw materials in compliance with appropriate cleaning regulations). Finally, the processed products will themselves be subjected to analyses in order to confirm the absence of pesticides. 

Source: Pomodoro Nord Italia IO

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