Tomatoes are available all year round, but the summer is often said to be their natural season. This is actually a half truth, as it refers to their taste, and not to the period when they are cultivated. In fact, the season of one of the most famous varieties on the market lasts from October to June. It is a tomato that demands little from the soil and which needs a dry climate and consumes salt water. This is an accurate description of Almería and an exact definition of Raf tomatoes.
The red gold fever is causing prices to increase and, at the same time, making it easier to fool the consumer. Like most varieties, the Raf is the result of a cross. A tomato of the Marmande variety and an American tomato gave rise to the Raf, which stands for "resistant to fusarium". Its cultivation requires the grower to sacrifice quantity for quality.
The success in sales brought also the appearance of copies with almost identical hybrids. For producer Jorge Lorenzo, "the problem lies not in the development of similar varieties, but in cheating without the consumers' consent. It's like selling Peugeot cars at Ferrari prices." That is why the cooperatives' efforts are focused on preventing the sale of one variety as another. "For a good number of years already, many competitors have tried to take advantage of the success of the Raf."
The Raf's lack of protection is clear. Not only is it not registered commercially, but it isn't sheltered under the umbrella of a designation of origin. That is why most tomato producers believe that the only solution is to use a special kind of packaging. "With the boxes that we used in the past, it was very easy to swap one product with another. Either there isn't enough supply for so much demand, or some are simply willing to do business at the expense of the consumer's pocket. The harsh reality is that if someone tries to sell the tomato variety Dumas as a Raf tomato, they are likely to succeed and get away with it. Because who can say for sure which of these tomatoes is or isn't a Raf?
Large cooperatives or centers, such as Mercabarna, claim that "it is impossible for the sector's professionals to be deceived. Our technicians would detect any anomaly, even if the tomato label was modified. Most cases of fraud take place at the points of sale."