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- François-Xavier Branthôme
- 2018 Season
Surfaces planted with processing tomatoes this year in Portugal have fallen to their lowest level since 2013. According to early estimations published on 20 June by the INE (Portuguese National Institute of Statistics), a number of growers have shunned this crop after being discouraged by various difficulties, with tomatoes now being grown on surfaces that are 26% lower than they were last year.
Agricultural forecasts as of 31 May, made available on the INE website, indicate that planting operations were delayed this year by three weeks compared to normal, and were still unfinished at the end of May.
Surfaces planted with processing tomatoes dropped from 19 600 hectares in 2017 to 14 400 hectares in 2018, a notable decrease that can mainly be seen as the result of major difficulties encountered in terms of plant health issues (whitefly, mites) as well as quality issues (color defects), which resulted in a lower value crop.
"These difficulties put off a large number of growers and, for most of those remaining, led to a notable drop in planted surfaces," explained the INE, adding that early crops that have already blossomed are developing slowly due to the mild temperatures and to the trauma of transplanting because these operations took place when the plants were already at a very advanced stage of development (delays linked to weather conditions). The INE also reported the "obvious increase" in the number of preventive plant health treatments compared to usual requirements.
As for weather conditions, the INE pointed out that the month of May had been very dry, with however some storms and heavy rainfall, even hailstones, in the second half of the month. Total rainfall for the month of May only amounted to 54% of the average rain for this month over the period running 1971-2000. These circumstances were generally beneficial for the development of the plants, and have led to an improvement in soil conditions. Currently, with accumulated levels of rain reaching 96% of their average for the hydrological year 2017-2018, "there is no limitation on water availability, whether to meet the needs of crops" or to respond to the requirements of processing installations, concluded the Institute.
Some complementary data: