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A PDO has been proposed for tomato paste from Las Marismas (Lebrija)
While the debate is still ongoing in Italy concerning a "Pomodoro Pelato di Napoli" PGI, Spain has decided to launch a protective procedure for a number of its products by requesting a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) (Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) in Spanish) for "tomato paste produced in the B-XII sector of Bajo Guadalquivir".
This proposal, which has been submitted to the Commission for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, has been initiated by two members of Parliament from the province of Seville, after they visited the irrigated agricultural areas of the Lebrija region last summer.
The MPs feel that it is necessary, according to their proposal, to "collaborate with promoters and advise them as to how to get approval for the PDO request", and submit the proposal to the European Commission, in order to clarify "the identification of distinctive and characteristic features offered by this product".
European regulations define a PDO as a name identifying a product originating in a specific place, region or, exceptionally, country, and whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment, with inherently linked natural and human factors, and whose production process occurs entirely within a clearly defined geographical region.**
In addition to being one of Spain's main products and recording yields amongst the highest in the world (>100mT/ha, editor's note*), the cultivation of processing tomatoes "in the B-XII sector of the Lower Guadalquivir region is characterized by a number of environmental factors that present the specific quality features of the PDO and distinguish the tomato paste as a unique product."
The most relevant arguments put forward in the report from the MPs referred to "the past salinity of the marshes that have now been transformed into cultivation areas (approximately 15 000 hectares in the B-XII sector) and the current specific physical and chemical characteristics of these soils after the area was desalted and provided with irrigation." "[...] The particular geological characteristics of the plain now cultivated where these ancient marshes were located, the input of sand-carrying winds in this region less than 30 km from the ocean, the maritime influence on temperatures [...] and the proximity of the Doñana National Park [...] give the B-XII sector a specific unpolluted ecosystem that is particularly respectful of the environment."
**PDO: Protected Designation of Origin (AOP / Appellation d'origine protégée)
This PDO designation refers to the name of a product that is grown, processed and produced entirely within a clearly defined geographical area according to acknowledged and recorded processes and expertise. It refers to the European Community declination of the French AOC designation.
PGI: Protected Geographical Indication
The PGI designation refers to agricultural products and food items whose characteristics are closely linked to a clearly defined geographical area where they are at least grown, processed or produced.
55 000 tonnes of paste in 2017
The production of tomato paste in the marshes of the Lebrija region started at the beginning of the 80s with the search for alternatives to traditional crops in order to "diversify" and more effectively face the hazards to which agricultural production was exposed.
During the 2017 season, concluded at the end of October, 250 000 tonnes of tomatoes were harvested and processed into 55 000 tonnes of paste. 400 growers planted tomatoes for processing in the B-XII sector, with an average of 6 hectares per farm.
Tomato pastes produced in the region of the Lebrija marshes are mainly exported to Japan, Italy, Germany, South America, Turkey and Dubai.