- Sophie Colvine
- 2021 Season
“…the production of this campaign could exceed 540.000 tonnes”
The Agricultural Engineer Cosme Argerich, the international reference to INTA for tomatoes for processing declared that they project a harvest that could surpass 540 million kilos nationwide, with the highest concentrated volume in the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. A month away from the start of the harvest, the tomato chain for industry projected a campaign that could set a record-breaking production in Argentina.
The agricultural cycle has now started with favorable expectations, which was evidenced in the country with about 7,300 ha cultivated (about 900 more than in the 2019/2020 season) of which about 3,600 are concentrated in Mendoza and almost 2,300 in San Juan. Of the rest, some 400 ha were made in La Rioja, 150 in Rio Negro and an estimated equivalent of 800 hectares, more or less, would be tomato from the NOA grown for the fresh consumption market, which ends up being derivative to industry.
A record harvest
The truth is that, after the first of three main months of harvest (concentrated at the start in San Juan, with some volumes in La Rioja) ′′we are seeing very good returns′′ declared Cosme Argerich, also Supervisor of Tomato 2000 Association.
In dialogue with the publication Revista Campo Andino, the agricultural engineer went further by pointing out: ′′I think we'll have a record harvest this year". He estimates that ′′the production of this campaign could exceed 540.000 tonnes, though until the end of the harvest we will not be able to know precisely".
Ing. Argerich attributes this higher production scenario to a combination of factors, such as a larger cultivated area (in the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan, around 900 hectares more), favorable climate conditions and better technology applied to crops.
On the decision to expand the cultivated area for the cycle 2020/21, the INTA's scientist pointed to a more pro-production scenario given by market conditions and import restrictions.
In reality, Argentina never managed to cover domestic demand for processed tomato. Local production investments have always fluctuated at the pace of cyclically changing macroeconomic scenario - basically the exchange rate - and domestic policies on foreign trade.
Now, the conditions are in place for industries to turn more into local production, because ′′it's better for them to make puree directly than to import paste and reprocess it", Argerich explained. Although he pointed out that it is possible to do so in competitive conditions, because of the knowhow developed by the Tomato 2000 Association.
On this point it should be clarified that, of the total area cultivated nationally this season, about 4,200 ha are within the Tomato 2000 Program, an initiative channeled through the Tomato 2000 Association, which are producers, processors, input and service providers and INTA.
This integration scheme has allowed - over more than two decades of research, development and technology transfer - to increase exponentially productivity and to give business sustainability, particularly in the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan, deploying geopositional monitoring tools, determination of raw material quality and a Hail Damage Compensation Fund for all farms of the 163 registered producers.
This has been reflected - also in this campaign - in average yields of 110 mT/ha in San Juan and 80 mT/ha in Mendoza, with highs of 160 mT/ha and 135 mT/ha respectively.
This is why, with relatively low production levels compared to countries leading world production, it is also possible (always for those in that integration scheme) to agree on a reference value that, although somewhat below what the European producers receive, ′′is a good price because European costs are higher", says Ing. Argerich.
Thus, the contracts in general, currently concluded between processors and growers who are part of the Tomato 2000 Association, pledge a base price to the USD 75 per tonne (or seven and a half cents per kilo) introducing greater predictability to the business.
The harvest began in the first week of January and is expected to continue, in a sustained way, until the end of March, but will continue at a lower pace until the end of April.
“We have developed a real profitable alternative for growers by working with the whole sector and we must continue gradually but in a sustained manner to reach self-sufficiency, which is now estimated at 700,000 tonnes” said the Tomato 2000 Association Supervisor.
Some complementary data:
Progression of processed quantities in Argentina
Sources: Revista Campo Andino, Tomate 2000