- François-Xavier Branthôme
Exactly 40 years after the AMITOM was created on 16 May 1989, and 30 years after the birth of Tomato News, Avignon welcomed representatives of 24 countries representing all of the regions where processing tomatoes are grown for industrial use, during the first edition of the Tomato News conference.
Beyond the impressive participation figures (135 professionals registered and attending, a number that was voluntarily limited by the capacity of the venue chosen to host the event) and beyond the density and quality of the presentations given by the speakers (a total of about 20 papers presented by industry leaders from around the world and by internationally acknowledged scientists), participants will not only remember the unusually inclement weather for the season, they will also remember the important fact that the industry gathered for a few hours in a spirit of conviviality to think through issues linked to the current situation, short and midterm operating prospects, development levers made possible by progress in the area of processing technology, and improvements provided by scientific discoveries and technical innovations in the fields of cultivation, quality evaluation, industrial decision-making resources, etc.
More than one third of the participants represented non-European regions, particularly North America, Mediterranean Africa and Eurasia.
The program, which was exceptionally dense for this type of event, was scheduled over six sessions presided by Mr. Martin Stilwell, President of Tomato News SAS, by Mrs. Sonia Neves da Silva, President of the AMITOM, by Mrs. Maria Nomikos, Vice-president of TomatoEurope, by Mr. Antonio Casana, President of TomatoEurope, and by Mr. Manuel Vazquez (previous President of the AMITOM). The earlier presentations dealt with topics linked to the constant evolution that our industry must undergo in order to survive in a changing world, both in terms of production and competition as well as in terms of quality and consumption. The perspectives of speakers from highly diversified horizons like Turkey, California, China, Egypt, Russia or Argentina provided a clearer comprehension of the industry situation just a few weeks off the start of harvest in the northern hemisphere. In closing the first day, an informal roundtable dealt with national processing prospects, and was open to all conference participants, under the leadership of WPTC President Mr. Dimitris Nomikos. This was a good opportunity to understand the context of production volumes for the 2019/2020 season, with forecasts of about 37.8 million tonnes (see details in our article 6564).
Technological research and innovations were also a major feature of these two days, with three presentations dedicated to the advantages of ohmic heating in the treatment of tomato products, and to the advantages and new prospects for quality control currently made available thanks to infrared technology (see also our article "Infrared: broadening the industry focus…") and to the expertise of the industry in terms of "high pressure" processing procedures. A number of other expected topics were covered during the first day of exchanges, like health claims, issues of ethics and sustainability, and marketing and product origin. The first day was finished off with an evening of cultural relaxation and socializing organized in a historic venue in the heart of the city where several popes famously dwelt. This provided the opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the AMITOM with speeches by current president Mrs. Sonia Neves da Silva, and by Mr. Jacques Miklichansky, General Delegate and founder of the organization.
The last morning of this professional gathering was dedicated to the upstream sector of agricultural production, specifically to the different scientific, technical and legislative issues raised by the latest evolution in improvements and development tools for new varieties of processing tomatoes. The presentations dedicated to CRISPR-Cas9 methods and to varietal selection led on to a roundtable that gathered industry operators from several countries who discussed the problems linked to relaunching consumption of tomato products. Finally, representatives of the Argentinian industry presented the 14th World Processing Tomato Congress, and invited participants to join in this event, which will be held at the same time as the 16th ISHS Symposium in San Juan, Argentina, from 15 to 19 March 2020.
The 14th World Processing Tomato Congress and 16th ISHS Symposium on the Processing Tomato will take place in San Juan, Argentina on 15-19 March 2020.
More information at: www.worldtomatocongress.com
Most of the presentations given in Avignon will be featured over the coming months in the pages of Tomato News. But in the immediate, in response to several inquiries over the two days of the event, all of the presentations (as well as photos taken during the event and a list of participants) will soon be made available to participants on the Tomato News website. In addition, the 2019 Yearbook, specially published for this event and given out free to conference participants, is now available for sale on our website at the price of EUR 100.
Despite unseasonal temperatures for the month of May, the working atmosphere and the quality of the exchanges clearly made a success of this first Tomato News conference, fully meeting the expectations of organizers and participants, and above all, worthy of the anniversaries of which the Avignon location and dates were a symbolic choice and for which representatives gathered from all over the world's tomato processing industry. This success can be attributed to the participants, to the speakers, but also to the sponsors and to all those who participated in the preparation and smooth-running of this event.
The Tomato News editorial team is happy to extend its heartfelt thanks to all of them and invites readers to plan to attend the second edition of this event, probably in 2021.
The 2019 Processed Tomato Yearbook which was distributed to attendees at the Tomato News Conference can be purchased from this website (go to GET LISTED) or by sending the order form.