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Argentina: a reduction of planted surfaces in Mendoza

21/05/2024 - François-Xavier Branthôme - 2024 Season - Lire en français
In Argentina, a report prepared by the IDR (Rural Development Institute) shows an 8% drop in the surface areas planted with tomatoes for processing in the Mendoza region, compared with the previous season. The two adjacent provinces of Mendoza and San Juan produce 80% of Argentina's processing tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are one of Argentina's most important vegetable crops. The country has favorable conditions for growing tomatoes in almost all of its territory, with the exception of the Patagonian provinces, which nonetheless include the Río Negro province. In recent years, this province has succeeded in increasing its yields, thanks to the "Patagonia Tomato" project developed since 2008 with the aim of promoting production and increasing yields, directly linked to the "Tomato 2000" program.
Argentinean production is divided between the fresh market and industrial processing market. Average annual tomato production in Argentina in recent years has been around 1.15 million tonnes, on an average area of 17,500 hectares. 60-70% of these quantities are destined for fresh consumption, and the remaining 30-40% for industrial processing. The latest data published by the FAO indicates that the surface areas planted with tomatoes in Argentina reached 19,445 hectares in 2022, for a production of 1.393 million tonnes.
Consumption of fresh tomatoes has been recorded at around 16 kg/person/year, second only to potatoes.

As far as the tomato processing industry is concerned, national production remains lower than domestic demand, with imports from Chile and Italy being the main sources of supply to cover the shortfall. This situation clearly highlights the opportunities for expansion in order to achieve self-sufficiency. According to the IDR report, around 650,000 tonnes of tomatoes are processed each year by the industry in Argentina, and over a normal season, the national harvest reaches 450 million kilos, representing a difference of more than 40%.
However, the most recent estimates from the Argentinean industry point to a result for the 2024 season of around 660,000 tonnes (see related articles below).
The main production areas for processing tomatoes are the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan (the Cuyo region as a whole accounts for 80% of the country's production), followed by La Rioja, Salta and Jujuy (Northwest Argentina, or NOA), Corrientes and Formosa (Northeast Argentina, or NEA), Rio Negro, and Buenos Aires. In addition, the horticultural belts around the country's main cities contribute to supplying the consumer centers they encompass.

Mendoza: Relative importance of tomatoes compared with summer vegetables
The estimated planted surfaces for this season (2024) amounted to 3,683 hectares, down 8% on the previous season. This crop includes oblong or industrial processing tomatoes, round long-life tomatoes and round, flattened and ribbed Platense tomatoes.
Analysis of data from the last twelve seasons shows that the surface areas dedicated to tomato cultivation for processing in Mendoza province has varied from 2,000 to 4,000 hectares. The 2024 season was a typical one, within these parameters and close to the upper limit.

Tomatoes are one of the province's most important horticultural crops. It is a sector in constant growth in terms of organization and integration of management technologies, which in recent years has led to strong increases in yields, positioning Mendoza and San Juan as the country's main producing regions.
Among the province's summer vegetables, tomatoes, with 22% of the planted area, were the most widely grown species after pumpkins and potatoes in 2023/2024.

As the following graph shows, the zone with the highest concentration of tomato production last season was the central region, with 33% of the province's planted surface areas (mainly Maipú and Luján), followed by the Valle de Uco (24%). The main tomato-producing counties were: Lavalle (19%), Maipú (19%), San Martín (13%), San Carlos (11%) and Tunuyán (10%).

Production costs, updated February 2024
The following graph shows the comparative importance of the total cost components required to grow one hectare of processing tomatoes, based on a traditional model of 5 hectares, with furrow irrigation, 26,000 plants per hectare and an average yield of 80 tonnes.
The sum of all the expenses required in preparing the land, irrigating, planting, applying treatments and maintaining the crop until the harvest, results in the direct cost of production.
The report shows that to carry out the agricultural tasks of a complete production cycle on one hectare, it is necessary to invest 4.5 million pesos (around USD 5,135 or EUR 4,798).
It should be pointed out, however, that this value does not take into account depreciation or management costs, but only expenses linked to cultivation operations. Costs are estimated according to values recorded in February 2024. So for a yield of 80 t/ha, the direct cost of setting up and running the crop is estimated by the IDR at USD 59.58 per kilogram of tomato.

The prices paid to growers
For the past 20 years, the IDR has kept up a system of registers for commercial operations on the farm or field-gate (without freight), which includes the harvest but without VAT, for various products. This price information provides transparency to the informal economy sectors in terms of price levels for different varieties, qualities and trade destinations.
The following table shows the evolution of the price paid to growers over the months of December, January and February, as the commercial season is still underway, with a peak at the time of the first frosts.
Some complementary data
You can access the full details of the report
by clicking here.

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