Harvest of Italian summer tomatoes in full swing

The summer season of Italian tomatoes is in full swing now that Sicilian tomatoes, which arrive on the market in winter, are no longer available. As for the final ones, balance is positive all in all, despite some ups and downs. Prices for summer tomatoes are satisfactory, although the best quality is meant for foreign markets. The Dutch tomato in particular is king on the Italian market.

Regarding separate segments, the cherry tomato appears to be stable, while demand for datterino tomatoes is increasing. Plum tomatoes are also doing well, and more and more growers choose to grow this tomato, as well as the beefsteak tomato.

Balance of Sicilian season and prospects
“The 2018/19 tomato season is going to increasingly focus on smaller varieties, because Sicily has a segment that’s headed in this direction,”says Giuseppe Libretti, expert in the field of Italian tomatoes.

“In Europe, we can’t compete with big tomatoes on the Dutch, Belgian or Austrian markets, because theirs have a much higher yield per hectare than production in Sicily. For us, the variety trend is increasingly focused on premium varieties with good flavour, high brix, intense taste and smaller sizes,” Giuseppe continues.

The datterino tomato is doing very well, and is a tomato variety much in demand. Supply increases by about 20 per cent each season.

“Our market studies show consumers are returning to values and gastronomic traditions from the past, when mothers and grandmothers spent all their time in the kitchen. They trusted the flavour and authenticity of vegetables, and knew everything. Nowadays, that role has been entrusted to supermarkets, which are starting to understand it isn’t just about quantity and low prices but about quality,” Giuseppe explains.

“Unfortunately, many tomatoes are wrongly compared to ours. Regarding foreign competition, the fiercest competition has been with Spain in recent years. There are also many products from Morocco and North Africa. The market is therefore somewhat complicated and we’re trying to do everything to properly market our product.”

Road to optimal quality
“We’re protecting ourselves with the ‘organic’ label. Many of our products are already organic, or will soon be so. Moreover, we focus on quality and we’re aware it has to be good at all times.”

“It’s important to broaden our horizon. To do so, we have to look at the Asian or Arabian markets, for example. That’s why we have to be organised regarding air cargo, which could lead to destinations that would otherwise not be accessible in future. We naturally have to bear in mind the higher costs, but we’ll earn these back during sales stages of our products, because these markets have shortages particularly in winter periods,” Giuseppe emphasises.

Centre: Giuseppe Libretti

Climate and plant diseases
“The weather has changed much compared to 10-15 years ago, and it’s becoming more extreme. Tornadoes, excessive drought and frost in March for instance happen more and more often. It appears as if we’re headed for an unpredictable climate. We’ve decided not to wait until the Ministry of Agriculture does something. That’s why we have our own resources such as reservoirs and rationalised irrigation systems. Long-lasting drought could be dangerous to our production, and consequences would be disastrous,” Giuseppe explains.

“Right now, the real problems are caused by the tomato leaf-miner. In the past two years, many tomato plants were lost because of this. Unfortunately there’s no pesticide, the only thing we can do is try to prevent it by means of netting and by closing our greenhouses. That’s why we’ve installed double doors and we use traps and screens to catch the moths,” Giuseppe concludes.

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