A can of tomatoes from Italy in the Dutch or Belgian supermarket for not even 50 euro cents, that is almost impossible. The Dutch TV-program Keuringsdienst van Waarde delved into the disquieting messages about abuses in the tomato harvesting, most recently last September on two Flemish sites about African and Chinese tomato pickers. But also closer to home, in Europe, things are not right.
Immigrants mainly pick in the South-Italian hills in appalling conditions. The cameras are not really welcome there.
Those that did appear on camera were a Dutch importer of canned tomatoes, Jörgen Bodewes, and a North-Italian industrial tomato grower, who harvests mechanically because it is not possible to harvest the tomatoes while paying a hundred labourers a normal wage.
After it aired La Bio Idea, producer of biological (tomato) products, reacted to the episode.
"La Bio Idea grows its tomatoes in the middle of Italy. Here, the Mediterranean sun, together with the sea wind, provides a good micro-climate for tomato cultivation. In this region, La Bio Idea has been working with the Simonetti family for almost thirty years. This family company was the first in processing solely organic tomatoes.
Photos by La Bio Idea
"The sun-ripened tomatoes are being grown in the fields around the factory by farmers which have been doing business with this factory for generations. In July, the tomatoes are being harvested and immediately brought to the factory. Within 24 hours, they are processed to, for example, La Bio Idea tomato pieces or passata.
"During the busy harvest time, the Simonetti family and its farmers only work with employees which are officially on the payroll and often have been in service for years. The Italian labor and immigration legislation is complied with 100%."