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Market, prices, and energy crisis - Global Tomato Congress is back

After two and a half years, the Global Tomato Congress has come back again to the Netherlands. Yesterday, tomato specialists from the full extent of the supply chain gathered in The Hague. The full-day program covered a wide range of subjects, from technology and breeding to marketing and trade.

Anyone who wanted to could watch the presentations in English on the main stage with headphones, for almost the entire day. Many of the current pressing challenges were discussed, such as finding new markets, especially now with the aftermath of the corona crisis and an energy crisis in full swing.

The Looye team at the festive display of the Honeytomatoes. The combination with chocolate was extensively tested by many visitors. View the entire photo report here.  

Winter season 2022/2023
The main question for the upcoming winter season is where everyone will get their tomatoes from if energy prices don't become sustainable. David Herzog of Rijk Zwaan predicted that in the coming years, tomatoes on the shelves from many more different countries will have to be taken into account. The challenge for breeding companies is then to have the right varieties for all those countries so that the quality of the tomato is stable all year round.

More than enough tomatoes at Rijk Zwaan. View the entire photo report here.  

As with the 2019 edition, the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus found its way into this year's edition. In the morning, Jan Engelen of Coöperatie Hoogstraten was the first to mention the virus on the big stage in a presentation about market developments. Not a fun subject, but crucial to unpack. The various breeding companies that followed on the podium too discussed that. They have now the first ToBRFV-resistant varieties on the market and the variety portfolio with resistances will continue to grow considerably in the coming period. The next step is now to move from intermediate resistances to high resistances, although there is also the realization that the virus will have to be lived with. Moreover, every once in a while a new virus reappears.

Ralph van der Caay, TNI, Robert van den Berg, Bakker Barendrecht and Hans Derks of Harvest House. View the entire photo report here.  

Rising costs
Because of the rising prices of energy and inputs, there were quite some talks about the coming winter production, especially with regards to finding the right quote prices, while retailers shy away from the high costs associated with lit and heated tomato cultivation.

If you think you should look further south, you may be disappointed. Here too costs are rising, not so much for energy per se, but for packaging and logistics, among other things. The result is that growers there also quote high prices when they are asked about their supply for next winter. Apart from that, the supply is also finite among growers in the south. The necessary volumes have been fixed in contracts for many years. Growers there cannot conjure up tomatoes either, certainly not as long as they are not sure that they can also sell them at good prices. Interest in growing further south or entering into partnerships with growers in North Africa, for example, is now high.

Yanick Verkade of Al Dahra Baywa and Erwin de Kok of BASF. View the entire photo report here.  

Michael Zaglere and Florian Gostner spoke on behalf of the Italian grower Fri-El Green House about their plans for the future and geothermal energy. The growers want to start growing on a total of 30 hectares in 2023 and they will also start drilling for geothermal energy this autumn. Even further south, Al Dahra grows BayWa Agriculture in the desert. Dominik Hartl talked about how it is quite a challenge in the United Arab Emirates to convince supermarkets and consumers of the quality of locally grown products. Imported product from the Netherlands, for example, has a good reputation. How different it is here, where local products are preferred by consumers.

The Bayer team let visitors express their preferences about the different tomato varieties and presented a special toolbox. View the entire photo report here.  

Between the presentations, there was enough time to enjoy local products at the event organized by Fruitnet. Among the approximately 25 exhibitors were the necessary breeding companies and sales organizations that had brought tomatoes. During a presentation by breeding company Bayer, there was also an opportunity to taste tomatoes from a new, specially developed toolbox. With that toolbox filled with tomatoes, the breeding company goes to supermarkets to let them choose the right varieties for their customers. Seven flavor profiles have been drawn up for this and they look further than just brix. With the toolbox, the breeding company focuses on selecting varieties based on facts.

View the entire photo report here. 

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