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100% Italian tomatoes: popular in the aisles, but growers are attentive

04/11/2020 - François-Xavier Branthôme - 2020 Season - Lire en français
Incentive premiums of 15% for early and late crops? 

The “100% Italian” tomato label is performing well on supermarket shelves, but does not satisfy growers: “We are rewriting the programming rules with industrial partners.” This is the watchword of Emilia-Romagna’s processing tomato producers linked to the Confagricoltura and the CIA (Confederation of Italian Farmers), who cultivate more than half of the 25,427 hectares of land dedicated to this crop in the region, the rest being provided by cooperatives, individual growers and other agricultural structures. 70% of the harvest in northern Italy comes from Emilia Romagna, amounting to just under 1.9 million tonnes of the total 2.7 million tonnes.
In fact, despite the consumer crisis, the “100% Italian” tomato label – from pastes to canned products, including peeled tomatoes – has achieved real success in terms of sales, while not satisfying growers. The two regional agricultural organizations have commented on the most difficult season on record by stating that: “Climatic anomalies are increasing and processing capacities are diminishing. In addition, the duration of the harvest was also shortened this year due to the grouped ripening of the fruit, to the point that the harvest was already finished by 20 September. The terms of the agreement between farmers and processors must therefore be reviewed in order to enhance the value of the product in the field.”

 The Confagricoltura and the CIA of Emilia-Romagna have defined a common position that can be presented at the negotiating table regarding the framework contract for the region of northern Italy next year (for the 2021 campaign). Of course, this proposal also takes account of the good market situation for tomato products, and “renews the production volumes to be provided by the two agricultural organizations for 2021, i.e. 2.5 to 2.6 million tonnes, with a variability of more or less 4%, as well as a target in terms of planted surfaces of about 35,000 to 36,000 hectares, including 25,000 in Emilia-Romagna.” It is nevertheless necessary, underline both the Confagricoltura and the CIA, to change tack on the management of production capacities, “in the face of harvesting and processing conditions that have been completely disrupted by weather conditions and by increasingly reduced processing capacities (in terms of the number of active operators), in an industrial context where the diversification of production and types of products (packaging formats, cherry tomatoes, organic products, etc.) inevitably weighs heavily on the operation of factories and slows them down.”
In addition, the two agricultural organizations insist on a few critical points to be avoided: “Our growers achieved a yield per hectare that is significantly higher than the five-year average (74 tonnes per hectare against 70) and a Brix degree of 4.82 that testifies to the quality of production. Despite this, pointed out the regional CIA and the Confagricoltura, the contract price has remained low despite the difficult periods of the season, the burden of which has been transferred entirely onto the agricultural upstream. Consequently, we are asking that future negotiations include the consideration of a significant revaluation, of at least 15%, for tomatoes harvested in July and after 15 September, in order to encourage cultivation during the most risky periods for the phenological state of the plants.”

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