The dark side of Italian tomatoes (part 3)

Imports of tomato concentrate in Ghana reached a peak in 2007 at over 29,000 tons. Italy is the second largest exporter of tomato concentrate to Ghana, after China.

The heart of this business is in central Italy, in the Naples region, a strategic crossroads for processing and trade. On the docks of the port of Parthénopéen, each week containers of boxes of tomato concentrate “made in Italy”, leave for the four corners of the world. Only agricultural production was relocated to Puglia, the fertile lands of agro-napoletano being gradually nibbled by creeping urbanization. The Capitanata Plain, around Foggia, once a cereal crop, has become the “red gold mine.” Even in Africa, I have never seen workers living under these conditions. Black Red Blood Borgo Libertà – Apulia Region, Southern Italy. At the middle of the yellow meadows of the Capitanata plain which stretches between the coasts of the Adriatic Sea and the hills of the Gargano, semi-trailers loaded with tomato crates sail at full speed on poorly asphalted roads towards Naples, raising clouds of dust as they passed.
In Indian file, seasonal workers from Ghana, Mali, and Senegal are joining their mates. In the evening they return to the camp where they rent a mattress under tarps or in a makeshift hut. “The invisible of the harvest campaigns” are thousands in all of southern Italy. In their vast majority undocumented, they are ready for all sacrifices to work. “Even in Africa, I have never seen people living under such conditions,” said a Cameroonian student who organized the first seasonal strike in the Apulian fields in 2010. Today he is employed by the CGIL, the first trade union center in Italy, to defend the rights of migrant seasonal workers. Italy, the third European agriculture after France and Germany, is arguing with Spain the first place for vegetable crops. Over the past ten years, according to data developed by FAO Stat, Italy has produced an average of 6 million tons of tomatoes per year. According to the FAO, the average amount of European aid to the tomato sector amounted in 2001 to € 45 per tons of exported product. Moreover, according to Oxfam, the European Union subsidizes total annual tomato production in Europe to the tune of € 300 million, or about € 34.5 per ton, which would cover 65% of the market price of the final product . Who in Brussels realizes this paradox? Why continue to subsidize an export product in fact dumping on local African productions? “During the harvest season of tomatoes, I managed to send some money to my family in Ghana. But I can not go back, nor let them come here, nor tell them under what conditions I live in Italy. “
The story of Prince Bony is emblematic of this perverse mechanism. Sitting in front of the dilapidated house he will have to leave because the roof threatens to collapse, he does not know where he will continue his “journey”. Sisyphus of modern times, he seems condemned to pick up tomatoes like the son of Eole to roll his stone up the mountain. What Prince Bony does not know is that the fruit of his undeclared work in tomato fields in southern Italy is likely to compel farmers in the Upper East Region in northern Ghana, to abandon their lands, the same land on which he lived and cultivated to feed his family, before leaving.

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