The dark side of Italian tomatoes (part 2)

Everywhere stalls crumble under pyramids of red boxes of tomato concentrate, cleverly arranged by the merchants. “Gino” “Salsa” “Fiorini”, brands are a concentrate from Italy. An image vendor for the tomato, the Chinese product “Gino” also sports the colors green-white-red Italian flag to attract customers.

Other products rely on the reference to African identity, “African Choice”, “Obaapa”, but on closer inspection, one can read “canned in Italy” on preserves. “Before I sold fresh fruits and vegetables. Today, customers buy only tin cans » A selling vendor said
“What sells best are these boxes of Gino, but the boxes of Salsa go well too,” explains a small merchant with a big red apron. Over the years, she has seen little by little disappear the mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables from the stalls, replaced by tins imported from around the world.
For the director of the Community Self Reliance Center, an association close to tomato growers, the government should have limited the amount of tomato concentrate imported from abroad. “If the market had been regulated, farmers could have benefited from better prices and could have sold their produce. But the government has done the opposite. It opened wide the doors to imports of European tomato concentrate. There is such a choice and such a quantity of products on the market that it is impossible to sell tomatoes produced locally.
Thousands of tons of tomato concentrate produced in Italy arrive each year in Ghana. These imports have an impact on the local tomato market. In the early 2000s, the Ghanaian government reduced tariffs on imports of certain products, including tomato concentrate, causing a deluge of foreign products on the markets local. FAO calculated: between 1998 and 2003, imports of tomato concentrate increased by 650%. While in 1998, 92% of tomatoes sold domestically were of Ghanaian origin, in 2003 the market share had dropped to 57%. A decline that not only had a direct impact on farmers, but also on the organization of the sector. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimates that the journey of a tomato from the field to the plate gives work to at least 25 people, from farmer to carrier, wholesalers Small traders, intermediaries to restaurant owners. Today, Ghana imports an average of 20,000 tons of tomato concentrate each year. A juicy market that Italy, which still had a monopoly there ten years ago, is now fighting with China. Massive imports of European tomato concentrate killed the local market.
In the Salsa Concentrating Plant, the red gold industry Nocera Superiore in Southern Italy, canned foods twirl on rails in a deafening racket. The busy workers load pallets of cardboard into a container. “He leaves tomorrow for Côte d’Ivoire,” explains the project manager. “When my father founded the company in 1968 at Nocera Superiore, it produced 10,000 cartons a day. At that time it was exceptional! ” Says the current managing director of Cec – Centro Esportazioni Conservati. ” In Africa, twenty years ago, the tomato concentrate was exclusively Italian”. Today all the production of the Italian factory of Nocera Superiore is exported to the other side of the Mediterranean. Thanks to its flagship brand “Salsa”, destined for the African market, the company has an annual turnover ranging between 25 and 30 million euro’s annually. “Italy is the second processor and preservative of tomato after California , In terms of the quantity of processed fresh products “, says the director of ANICAV, the national association of industrial producers of canned vegetable foods. In 2013, the Italian canned tomato industry exported 1.127 million tons of canned tomatoes for a turnover of 846 million euro’s, in a market growing by 8.32% over one year.

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