ConservasJun. 21, 2013
Tomates/Italia: el sur del país establece el precio más alto del mundo para proceso
TOMATO processors and producers’ associations in central and southern Italy have finally settled their disputes and agreed a base price for this year’s processing tomato crop – almost two months after the minimum price was set in the north of the country, and with just a few weeks to go before the start of the season.
The rates agreed for southern Italy’s tomato crop make the region’s raw material the most expensive across all global producers, even costlier than fruit from the north of the country.
Farmers and processors agreed to a base price of EUR90 per tonne (USD119/tonne) ex field for round tomato varieties, and EUR100/tonne ex field for plum varieties, ANICAV – southern Italy’s processors’ association that negotiated the terms of the agreement with farmers – told FOODNEWS. As regards plum tomatoes, the arrangement also sets premiums of EUR10/tonne for hand picking and a further EUR10/tonne for mulching.
The specifications in the agreement include a quality grid that allows price premiums of +/-10% for quality above or below requested standards, as well as a penalty of up to 20% of the base price for failing to deliver or to collect produce.
Compared with this year’s base price in northern Italy of EUR86/tonne – which was set in April – farmers in the south will be paid EUR4/tonne, or 5%, more (northern Italy grows only round varieties; plum varieties are typical in southern areas). The base price for the 2012 crop in the south was EUR80/tonne for round varieties, and EUR85/tonne for plum varieties. This is 12% and 18% less than this year, respectively.
“Prices are much higher than last year. This is mainly a consequence of current stocks of canned products, which are quite low [as regards] tomato pulp, and particularly peeled tomatoes,” a source at ANICAV told FOODNEWS. As recently reported, existing stocks of tomato products in Italy are expected to be cleared over the next few months (FOODNEWS 4 June). This has certainly been a key element in determining the latest base prices.
“The agreement is the result of a long liaising process between the farming and the processing industry, and it represents the starting stage for a complete re-organisation of the [southern Italian] supply chain,” said Annibale Pancrazio, president of ANICAV. “The deal also has a strategic relevance in regards to the existing project of opening a tomato hub overseeing tomato production in central and southern Italy – a useful tool to revive the entire sector.”
Highest rates on the market
The US tomato base price for the coming crop is USD70.5 per (short) ton, or USD77.7/tonne – excluding late season premiums – and the Chinese rate is less than USD70.0/tonne. This is, respectively, over 50% and over 60% lower than southern Italy’s price.
At the same time, it is worth noting how base prices are distinctively higher for producing countries in Europe: above USD100/tonne for both Greece and Portugal, and slightly less than USD100/tonne for Spain. Still, between the Spanish and southern Italian base prices there is a striking difference of some USD19/tonne, or 19%.
Although a higher base price is good news for Italian farmers – many of whom have been strangled by increasing production costs and late payments – Italian product on the international market is bound to face fierce competition from producing countries with a lower cost structure. The semi-finished product category, in this sense, appears to be the most vulnerable.
POs and processors have finally found some common ground after months of unproductive negotiations, and with only a few weeks to go before the crop actually starts. While countries such as the US set their base price in early April, it took much longer to agree a deal in southern Italy, even though POs had started calling for early talks already in November last year.
Marco Nicastro, president of the national division of PO Confagricoltura overseeing processing tomato farming in the country, issued a statement to FOODNEWS, criticising the timing of the agreement.
“We want to point out that the agreement is very late compared with the scheduling needs of farmers,” said Nicastro. “Prices and specifications cannot be set in June. This is certainly not the way to protect such an essential component of our ‘Made in Italy’ [trademark].
“As regards prices, although they have been slightly upped compared with last year, they remain below production costs, of at least 20-25% on average. With quotations such as these, we don’t really know how agricultural businesses will be able to hold on.”
BY DAVIDE GHILOTTI