An interview with Massimo Perboni, agricultural services senior manager of the Italian group Mutti SpA

Industrial tomato varieties that are resistant to climatic stresses

The processed tomato industry is undergoing a particular phase, both in terms of production - with the climate change and the related sustainable policies - and in terms of new trends towards processed products that meet the changing needs of consumers. In this regard, the Italian Mutti Group rewards producers who deliver top quality tomatoes through a premium pricing policy. We talked about it with Massimo Perboni, Agricultural Services Senior Manager of Mutti SpA group.

In the photo, Massimo Perboni

Climate change, drought-resistant varieties and varietal innovation                                                                                Massimo Perboni: "When we talk about the quality and excellence of our tomatoes, we cannot ignore the impact of climate change and global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global temperature in the first two decades of the 21st century (2001-2020) was 0.99°C higher than the temperature found in the period 1850-1900. In parallel, the occurrence of meteorological phenomena is increasingly atypical. With regards to tomato varieties, our first need is to select varieties with excellent organoleptic characteristics and that, at the same time, are productive and tolerant to the physical stresses caused by climate change in the north, but especially in the south, of Italy. A good example is the tolerance to physiopathologies, such as apical rot. For this reason, our dialogue with seed companies is constant, we provide a contribution to their activity of varietal innovation by bringing them our experience and our needs."

Sustainability in terms of quality and production                    "Quality is not true quality if it is not sustainable for our territory. Our perspective is that the projects we choose to undertake are always concrete and, at the same time, long-term. For this reason, since 1999 we have been certifying our products with the Certified Integrated Production label, as a guarantee of agricultural production that is naturally more focused on sustainable principles, without compromising quality. In addition, since 2010 we have been collaborating with WWF Italy, with whom we are engaged in a project aimed at finding sustainable solutions to reduce CO₂ emissions and water consumption in the cultivation and processing of tomatoes. Thanks to this collaboration, we have carried out an analysis of the water consumption of our production, defining solutions to reduce our environmental impact. We support, for example, drip irrigation because it uses much less water."

In addition to promoting the use of good agricultural practices, farmers associated with the Mutti group have been implementing the use of DSS (Decision Support System) in recent years These are digital decision support systems, which recommend the use of active ingredients or molecules only in case of emergency, thus optimizing their use and minimizing the amount introduced into the system. Therefore, as in the past, there is no longer the need to schedule treatments, but we intervene only when there is a threat.

Massimo Perboni: "We have described these and other sustainability projects in our Environmental Report 2020, drawn up for the first time in order to systematize what has been already implemented so far and also to start monitoring processes on an ongoing basis, capable of supporting the company in defining a strategic roadmap and improving actions in the field of environmental sustainability, even in the face of an initial investment of 1.5 million euros in the period 2022-2024, dedicated solely to environmental sustainability projects."

Ethical values for all the whole supply chain, where each operator is guaranteed the right remuneration                              As a market leader, Mutti has the responsibility to take action in the present to inspire greater change in the future. For this reason, group therefore pays close attention to ensuring that all actors in the supply chain pay attention to quality and to the implementation of good practices.

"Our company applies a premium pricing policy for tomatoes, aimed at remunerating those who confer a quality product. In 2021 alone, our company has awarded farmers more than 6.3 million euros for selecting tomatoes that meet Mutti's standards. These rewards are in addition to the market price."

In addition to these bonuses, there are other initiatives such as the Pomodorino d'Oro award, a recognition not only of economic value but also of a very personal appreciation that Mutti assigns to those who have particularly stood out during the campaign.

In terms of best practices, since 2018 the company has achieved a full transition to mechanized harvesting on all types of tomatoes and in all production areas. This reduces the risk of exploitation of laborers, associated with manual picking, and ensures a less tiring, but also more stable and consistent work pattern.

In addition, the company requires that all of its suppliers adhere to the Italian Quality Agricultural Work Network and/or to certifications on ethical aspects such as the GlobalGAP form GRASP or the SA8000 standard. The Quality Agricultural Work Network, released by a third-party audit process, certifies that the supplier company has not been found guilty of criminal activities or administrative sanctions for violations of labor and welfare laws, and that it has paid its social security contributions and other insurance obligations.

Corporate social responsibility regarding labor employment has already completed for the suppliers of our Salerno plant and is currently being implemented for our plants located in Parma.

The trend for peeled tomatoes                                                      Massimo Perboni: "Despite the trends, peeled tomatoes remain an iconic product for us. In particular when it comes to foreign countries, it is an identifying product, and since it is strongly characteristic of our country, Mutti supports it with a dedicated line whose raw material is produced entirely in Apulia.

Strengths and weaknesses of the processing tomato chain in northern and central southern Italy                                                "More than highlighting the differences, it is important to highlight how both supply chains that contribute to Mutti are united by the same intent, that is to deliver the best tomatoes. The combination of these two supply chains generate an extraordinary synergy that we will strive to maintain and further improve,” concluded Perboni.

For more information:  
Mutti SpA
Via Traversetolo, 28
43022 Montechiarugolo - Parma - Italy
Tel.: +39 0521 652511
Fax: +39 0521 681011

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