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Chile: The tomato from Limache returns to the metropolitan region after 40 years

For many, the tomato from Limache, which is known as limachino tomato, reminds them of their childhood and the flavors of the countryside. This product used to be present on the Chilean tables more than three decades ago and its flavor is completely different than the flavor of the ordinary tomato that currently leads the market. Over time the limachino tomato disappeared from the market due to its short post harvest life, but consumers always remembered it. Now, this tomato is back in the metropolitan region thanks to Cencosud, which has a pilot agreement with producers from Lima so that they place this product in some Jumbo supermarkets in the capital. 

The product can be found in the Jumbo Kennedy, Costanera, La Dehesa, Los Dominicos, and Portal La Reina supermarkets.

The arrival of the limachino tomato to this supermarket chain was achieved thanks to the INIA and the Federico Santa Maria University, which worked together to open this marketing channel so that this product could access new markets outside the Limache basin. This was possible through the signing of the pilot agreement between Cencosud and the producers, who arrived at the Jumbo La Reina store to present their tomatoes accompanied by the mayor of Limache, Daniel Morales, and representatives of INIA and Indap.

The first limachino tomatoes of this season are available for sale in Jumbo Kennedy, Costanera, La Dehesa, Los Dominicos, and Portal La Reina. The product arrived to the supermarket shelves in December 2017 and so far, the results have been more than satisfactory, as more than 90% of the available stock has been sold. This implies a new opportunity for the producers of Limache and Olmué, be they users of the Indap or members of the Limachino Tomato Technology Transfer Group coordinated by INIA in the area.

Producers, Cencosud, and guests at the ceremony where the product was presented.

Juan Pablo Martinez, a researcher at the INIA La Cruz Regional Research Center, which is located in the region of Valparaiso, was in charge of the territorial, healthy, and sensory valorization of the Limachino Tomato for Peasant Family Farming in the province of Marga Marga project, which ended in the year 2017. Martinez highlighted that the limachino tomato was being marketed outside the region of Valparaiso region and stated that the INIA and the UFSM were working on a brand and to achieve the denomination of origin for this product. "I am very happy for the producers who have worked hard to see this dream come true. This is a pilot of the business model. The Federico Santa Maria University is in charge of it. We never thought about placing the tomatoes in the supermarkets. Our goal was to rescue the tomato for the Limache area. The INIA and the University are creating a brand for this tomato and they are working to achieve a denomination of origin, which would be an added value for this product. There are two milestones to reach: the territorial seal, either with a geographical indication or denomination of origin, and making the limachino tomato last a little longer because it breathes a lot, produces a lot of ethylene, and ripens quickly. Otherwise, it will disappear again," the researcher said. 

Carolina Contardo, the Product Manager of the Cencosud's Fruits and Vegetables Commercial Area, said the company was very glad to reposition the limachino tomato in the place it lost for many years. "This agreement fills us with pride. We at Cencosud, want to give our customers a buying experience and we believe that limachino tomato is a great option to achieve this. We contacted the INIA so as to have a link with the producers, and the reception was very good from the beginning. The tomato's smell compels the customers that walk by it to buy. This is the flavor that people remember eating in their childhood, a real field tomato," Carolina Contardo said.

Maribel Sagredo and her husband Ernesto Hernandez produce Limachino Tomato in the sector of Quebrada Alvarado in Olmue.

Enrique Jorquera, a farmer from Limache that has always been dedicated to the countryside, appreciates this possibility of marketing this traditional tomato and of rescuing part of their traditions and culture. "I feel that, by being here, we are representing our ancestors who kept this seed alive and who we have to thank for having this product. For me, producing these tomatoes is a source of great pride. This tomato hadn't been sown for 40 years because the markets were not interested in it. This tomato's color, softness, and liquid are different. The tomatoes that last long don't have liquids. The limachino tomato has an intense flavor and smell. In addition, it doesn't resist a lot of chemicals so we have to grow it the old way," the farmer said. 

This traditional product left the market about 40 years ago because of its low post-harvest lifespan and the introduction of other tomatoes that overcame this problem. A few years ago, INIA rescued the limachino tomato and it is now working with producers in the basin through its Limachino tomato GTT to define quality parameters and improve its handling and transport conditions so that it arrives in good conditions to its destination. In turn, the UFSM led the business plan of the Limachino Tomato, in which producers and the INIA participated actively in the Territorial, healthy and sensory valorization of the Limachino Tomato for Peasant Family Farming in the province of Marga Marga project, which was executed by INIA and financed by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA).

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