The current tomato campaign is apparently being affected by quality problems, not only in the latest batches from England and the Netherlands, but also in the first ones from Spain, which are reaching 60-80 cents in auctions.
Located in Javea, Alicante and also with offices in Valencia, Comexa Europa S.L. is devoted to tomato and pepper exports. Graham Cousins, Comexa's commercial director, told us about the development of the campaign.
"We have already started with the first Spanish tomatoes, although unfortunately, we are facing problems with quality," explains Graham. "It has rained a lot in Almeria lately, causing spots to appear on the skin of the tomatoes and making them unsuitable for export."
Several of the exporter's colleagues, who unload tomato shipments in the harbours, explain that fewer ships with Canary tomatoes are arriving on the mainland. "Many exporters are waiting until they have enough fruit for a shipment, and for now the quality of the tomatoes arriving is rather questionable."
Graham says that, "in the Netherlands and the UK, many have used ethylene gas to change the colour of tomatoes, and since this is an artificial ripening method, tomatoes become soft and tasteless. Also, Moroccan tomatoes have a very short shelf life."
Nevertheless, Graham expects everything to change in the coming weeks. "We must trust producers, because the start of the campaign is always difficult, especially with this unstable weather. We need more sunshine."
There is not enough fruit in auctions yet to meet all orders. "The UK demands lots of small calibre tomatoes (2M 47/57) for their promotions in packs of six, but in the earlier stages of the harvest most tomatoes are larger, size M and G. France usually demands larger sizes."
Furthermore, demand is still quite low, despite the many promotions going on in supermarkets.
Comexa has a wide range of commercial tomato varieties (round, pear, on the vine, Raf, cherry, etc.), as well as tomato specialties. "I wish I could export Raf tomatoes to England, but they do not appreciate it yet. They eat with their eyes there," affirms Graham. As for cherry tomatoes, thanks to the providers they are able to supply it all year round.
The firm exports tomatoes in all sorts of packaging for supermarkets in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and France, under the COMEXA brand. "This year we will also be exporting to Germany."