About Tomatoes

The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit and a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru. One species, Solanum lycopersicum, was transported to Mexico where it was grown and consumed by Mesoamerican civilizations. The exact date of domestication is not known. The first domesticated tomato may have been a little yellow fruit, similar in size to a cherry tomato, grown by the Aztecs of Central Mexico. Aztec writings mention tomatoes were prepared with peppers, corn and salt. The word tomato comes from the Aztec tomatl, literally "the swelling fruit".

Many historians believe that the Spanish explorer Cortés may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan, now Mexico City, in 1521. Others believe Christopher Columbus, a Genoese working for the Spanish monarchy, was the first European to take back the tomato, as early as 1493. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in an herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist who named it pomo d’oro, or "golden apple".

Aztecs and other peoples in the region used the fruit in their cooking; it was cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas by 500 BC. It is thought that the Pueblo people believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.

After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean. They also took it to the Philippines, from where it spread to Southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent. The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 17th century in Spain. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. However, in certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, the fruit was used solely as a tabletop decoration before it was incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.

Tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597 and largely plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew that the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, he believed that it was poisonous (in fact, the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous; Gerard's views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies.

By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated that the tomato was "in daily use" in soups, broths, and as a garnish. In Victorian times, cultivation reached an industrial scale in glasshouses, most famously in Worthing. Pressure for housing land in the 1930s to 1960s saw the industry move west to Littlehampton and to the market gardens south of Chichester. Over the past 15 years, the British tomato industry has declined as more competitive imports from Spain and the Netherlands have reached the supermarkets.

The tomato was introduced to cultivation in the Middle East by John Barker, British consul in Aleppo c. 1799 – c. 1825. Nineteenth century descriptions of its consumption are uniformly as an ingredient in a cooked dish. In 1881 it is described as only eaten in the region, “within the last forty years.”

The tomato entered Iran through two separate routes. One route was through Turkey and Armenia, and the second route was through the Qajar royal family's frequent travels to France. The early name used for tomato in Iran was "Armani Badenjan" (Armenian Eggplant). Currently, the name used for tomato in Iran is "Gojeh Farangi" (Foreign Plum).

The earliest reference to tomatoes being grown in British North America is from 1710, when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in what is today South Carolina. They may have been introduced from the Caribbean. By the mid-18th century, they were cultivated on some Carolina plantations, and probably in other parts of the Southeast as well. It is possible that some people continued to think tomatoes were poisonous at this time; and in general, they were grown more as ornamental plants than as food. Thomas Jefferson, who ate tomatoes in Paris, sent some seeds back to America.

Because of their longer growing season for this heat-loving crop, several states in the US Sun Belt became major tomato-producers, particularly Florida and California. In California, tomatoes are grown under irrigation for both the fresh fruit market and for canning and processing. The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) became a major center for research on the tomato. The C.M. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center at UC Davis is a genebank of wild relatives, monogenic mutants and miscellaneous genetic stocks of tomato. The Center is named for the late Dr. Charles M. Rick, a pioneer in tomato genetics research. Research on processing tomatoes is also conducted by the California Tomato Research Institute in Escalon, California.

Nowadays, about 150 million tonnes are produced and consumed each year all over the world, of which 40 million as tomato products (tomato paste, peeled or unpeeled, whole or unwhole tomatoes).

TomatoNews' Letter

TomatoNews'Letter March 2013

TomatoNews'Letter February 2013

Tomato News'Letter January  2013

About the tomato processing industry

Updated 7th November, 2014

On a global scale, the annual production of fresh tomatoes amounts to approximately 160 million tonnes. In comparison, 3 times more potatoes and 6 times more rice are grown around the world (FAO, 2012). However, about a quarter of those 160 million tonnes are grown for the processing industry, which makes tomatoes the world’s leading vegetable for processing. Almost 40 million tonnes of tomatoes are processed every year in factories belonging to the greatest labels of the global food industry. 

The main production regions are located in temperate zones, close to the 40th parallels North and South, as illustrated on the following map. However, most of this production is based in the Northern hemisphere, where an average of 91 % of the world’s crop is processed between the months of July and December. The remaining 9 % are processed in the Southern hemisphere between January and June. Brazil is an exception, being the only country of the Southern hemisphere to process more than one million tonnes per year at the same time as the Northern hemisphere.




Despite the fact that many countries have a tomato processing industry, this production is strongly concentrated and the 10 largest producing countries account for some 86 % of the world’s yearly production.


about global tomato processing industry 01

In commercial terms, exchange volumes and commercial results also position the tomato processing sector among the main players of the global food industry. It can be said that in the 2012/2013 financial year, the 15 main production and exchange countries (9 in the EU, China, the USA, Turkey, Iran, Chile and Ukraine) exported approximately 5.45 million tonnes of finished products in the three leading tomato categories : paste (3.05 million tonnes), canned tomatoes (whole or pieced, peeled or unpeeled - 1.5 million tonnes) and tomato sauces & ketchup (895 000 tonnes). Paste is the main tomato product, both in production volume and in commercial value: in 2013, annual exports of tomato paste generated more than USD 3.4 billion (EUR 2.6 billion) of the USD 6.4 billion (EUR 4.85 billion) generated by this market.

The undeniable importance of the tomato producing industry is also rooted in the regular growth in consumption observed over the past twenty years. Mainly a trait of nations with a high standard of living, the highest overall consumptions of tomato products are found in Europe, with 20 kg per year, and in the USA, with 30 kg per year. Results from other countries (23 kg per capita per year in Canada) confirm the importance of the role played by tomato products in the eating habits of a wide variety of countries.


Throughout these areas, the increase in tomato consumption has been steady for several years, albeit at different rates. This has led to the appearance of new tomato-producing countries on the market. Some of them, like China, have dedicated heavy capital investment to this branch of the food industry. In only a few years, they have become able to threaten the dominant position of the two main producers, the USA and Italy.


The international tomato processing industry is organized around two main professional federations that together account for about 91 % of the world’s production: the AMITOM and the WPTC. In the Mediterranean region, the industry is organized within the AMITOM.


about global tomato processing industry 02

The AMITOM is an association gathering professional organizations of tomato processors in the Mediterranean region. For more than 35 years since its creation in 1979, this international association has been collecting and storing technical and economic data and information on processing tomatoes, from research to final sale. To that effect, the AMITOM works in a variety of areas, and regular meetings bring together delegations from the member states, making up the executive committee.

The AMITOM currently includes 9 member states – 5 European Union countries: France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, 5 non-EU countries:, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and 9 associate members in 6 countries : Algeria, Iran, Malta, Syria, Ukraine, and Russia.

For more information on the AMITOM, visit the web site


The World Processing Tomato Council (WPTC) was created in 1998. It gathers professional growers and/or processors’ organizations representing their respective production areas. Professional organizations from the following countries were the founding members of the Council: AMITOM countries (France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey), Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, California. These countries have since been joined by new AMITOM members Morocco and Egypt, as well as by Japan, South Africa and China.

For more information on the WPTC, visit the website


about global tomato processing industry 03

The following table presents the latest results of world’s processing tomato production.


about global tomato processing industry 04


Dates for your diary
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Date Titre/Title Lieu/Location Sites Web / Web Sites/Contacts
Jan. 20-21 Ontario Processing Vegetable Industry Conference Ontario - CANADA
Feb. 8-12 Gulfood Dubai - UAE

Feb. 18-19 Food Processing Expo Sacramento - USA

May 24-27

Pizza World Show

Parma - ITALY

June 10-12

Food News Tomato Forum 2015

Rome - ITALY

Oct. 10-14



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