In a general context that is seeing north-European table tomato production diminish due to the increase in energy costs, FreshPlaza has tried to make an assessment of the situation in Italy with the help of Sandro Gambuzza, national vice-president of Confagricoltura, who provided interesting data useful to understand the domestic production.
"The national production of table tomatoes is 547 thousand tons from open fields (17557 hectares) and 545 thousand tons from greenhouses (7349 hectares). Productions are roughly similar but, when it comes to the area covered, greenhouse production represents 30% of the total. The main producer regions of greenhouse tomatoes are Sicily with 3042 hectares and 193 thousand tons, Lazio with 2255 hectares and 171 thousand tons and Campania with 882 hectares and 66 thousand tons. The main producer regions of open-field tomatoes are Sicily with 7925 hectares and 155 thousand tons, Apulia with 2035 hectares and 10 thousand tons and Calabria with 1939 hectares and 47 thousand tons. It is interesting how our leading importer is Germany (26%), followed by Austria (20%) and Switzerland (12%). These data have been supplied by the Confagricoltura Study Center."
What have been the main trends over the past few years, what are consumers looking for in fresh tomatoes: shape, size, color or what else?
"Just like for other fruits, consumers choose products with an even shape and size and with a deep red color. Over the past few years, robbed tomatoes have become more popular which boast a right balance between acidity and sweetness. For tomatoes too, the choice of the type should depend on the type of consumption or pairing. For example, yellow tomatoes with a distinct acidity should be preferably used with fish."
What about organic tomatoes?
"The production of organic tomatoes represents approximately 12/15% of the national industry and table tomato production. Organic tomatoes are sold in specialized stores or supermarkets. Over the past few years, traditional supermarkets too have started having organic sections."
The Italian tomato production could therefore be defined as strategic for the fresh produce segment despite the drop in production due to the ToBRFV virus. Sicilian growers have however learned how to live with the virus by making suitable agronomic and varietal choices. Genetics still has not made huge steps forward when it comes to the fight against this disease, as there are still no varieties resistant to the tobamovirus.