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Portugal's tomato king buys processing plant in Seville

A Portuguese family is consolidating its position in the Andalusian agro-industrial sector. The Ortigão Costa family has opted for Sevilla after disbursing more than 20 million Euro since 2010 in the acquisition and modernization of a tomato paste factory in Las Cabezas de San Juan. "After a major investment, we've reached the right size in Andalusia," said company official, Pedro Couceiro, in a conference organized by the Cuatrecasas Olivencia-Ballester law firm and the Consulate of Portugal about business opportunities within the Hispano-Portuguese Framework.

The Ortigão Costa family owns the Sugal group, the fourth largest producer of tomato paste - the raw material used to make juices and sauces, such as ketchup- in the world. The group has two factories: one in Portugal and one in Chile. The group made an initial investment of 10 million Euro to acquire the plant in Seville, were they expected to reach agreements with a group of farmers that had a total of 1,500 hectares of tomato crops so as to process 150,000 tons of fresh tomatoes each year. "After accomplishing this first phase we realized we needed to increase our size, so we made a second big investment to increase our processing capacity to 250,000 tons and sign agreements with producers that control 2,500 hectares," said Couceiro. The manager stressed that, from now on, Tomates del Sur -as is called Sugal's Spanish subsidiary- will analyze market needs each year to see if they need to keep growing. Currently, the low prices of grain and cotton are leading farmers to bet on this crop, which was strongly established in certain municipalities, such as Lebrija, and that is now growing rapidly into new areas, such as in la Vega del Guadalquivir.

Couceiro said that they had not received any public subsidy to boost Tomates del Sur. The group has tried to access European funding programs, he said, but the business' pace does not match the deadlines set by the administration for these incentives.


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