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Italy: Chinese paste imports targeted by activists

27/06/2024 - François-Xavier Branthôme
At the end of May, activists carried out operations in the ports of Salerno and Bari to defend "Made in Italy" against "the invasion of foreign products". These protests saw growers from the Coldiretti take to the water in canoes, shouting "No fake products in Italy", a slogan launched during the mobilization at the Brenner a few months ago.

"Stop fake Italian food" and "Stop unfair imports" were some of the slogans displayed by the demonstrators, aiming to once again relaunch the demand for a revision of the Customs Code's "last processing stage" criterion on the origin of food which, according to the Coldiretti, "today allows the counterfeiting [of] made-in-Italy products and lets them sell as Italian a ham made from the leg of a pig raised abroad."
 "As an organization, the Coldiretti is present today in the ports of Bari and Salerno to protest against unfair imports made by exploiting Chinese workers, or with no compliance with European standards. We want the principle of the customs code on the origin of foodstuffs to be challenged, where only the last point of processing counts," said Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini at the Senate hearing where he spoke on the subject of agriculture.

The incriminating shipment, consisting of 40 containers of tomato paste of Chinese origin, left at the end of April aboard the China-Europe Railway Express train (see related articles below) before being transferred to the ship and arriving at the port of Salerno after a journey of ten thousand kilometers. The Coldiretti points out that "90% of China's tomato paste for export comes from crops and factories in the Xinjiang region, where it is grown using forced labor by Uyghurs." The phenomenon has been denounced by several human rights protection NGOs. 

Anicav: "Canned tomatoes made with 100% Italian tomatoes"
"We understand the logic behind Coldiretti, but it should be made clear to consumers that Chinese paste doesn't end up on their tables anyway." This is what the Anicav had to say about the Coldiretti's actions in the port of Salerno.

"Italy is the world's leading producer and exporter of tomato products destined directly for the end consumer," stated the Anicav. "The pastes, and the peeled, pureed, pulped and cherry tomatoes found on supermarket shelves are obtained from 100% high-quality Italian tomatoes, as stated on the labels. Tomatoes must be processed within 24 hours of harvesting, which represents processing times that are incompatible with any imports of raw materials from other countries.
Whether imports of pastes were twice as large or half as large as they are today, the fact that the surface areas of processing tomatoes grown in Italy have always been around 70,000 hectares is revealing. Imports of pastes do not therefore represent a particularly relevant problem for our agricultural system, since competition occurs at different levels. In fact, we prefer to allocate Italian raw material to higher quality, more profitable productions, bearing in mind that the price our companies pay farmers for tomatoes is the highest in the world, reaching as much as EUR 200/tonne, whereas in other processing countries, it is less than half that
"Imports of pastes received at Salerno are mainly shipped under a temporary import scheme, under which the paste entering Italy is then re-exported to third-party countries, leaving only the added value generated in terms of employment and margins in Italy. The real battle for the industry, which we could win with Coldiretti and all those who can support us, is linked to the application on European Community territory of the principle of reciprocity for pastes from third-party countries which do not apply the same ethical, social and environmental standards as we do – and which therefore constitute unfair competition for our companies."

Related articles

Italy: lawyers file complaints of Uighur forced labour over tomato paste

01/07/2024 See details





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