"These procedures, these processes and this quality come at a price."

- Tiziano Freccia
"The tomato harvest is full of surprises," says PMM's interviewee Tiziano Freccia, Sales Manager Industry and Foodservice at Casalasco (Rivarolo del Re), a major northern Italian tomato processor. Read what else he tells us about the current market situation here ...

PMM Mr. Freccia, this year's tomato harvest is just around the corner. Fresh, ripe and tasty tomatoes lift the spirits. What is your mood?

Tiziano Freccia Every year the harvest is a surprise and different from the previous ones. In the north of Italy this year we have to deal with a heat wave and a severe drought. It affects all crops, not only tomatoes. The situation is worrying. The spring rains have completely failed and the Po River has the lowest water level in decades. We continue to hope for refreshment, but with temperatures around 30°C, there is a risk of hailstorms or flooding. We fear that due to climate change, we will now regularly experience extreme weather conditions.

PMM This crop is hitting a totally sold-out market. What harvest result do you expect? How will you ensure that demand from industry and trade can be fulfilled?

TF After two years of uncertainty related to Covid and the lockdowns, the foodservice sector is back on track. However, the market is suffering from very low inventories. For the new season, demand from industry and foodservice has been strong, especially for tomato paste. Fortunately, Casalasco can rely on 570 farms in the network. In addition, there are three processing plants with a total capacity of more than 560,000 tons of fresh tomatoes. We are convinced that only long-term relationships ensure the company's success, because they can cushion price swings and fluctuating availability of goods.

PMM What trends are emerging in the European market, e. g. with regard to the processing of raw materials or packaging?

TF The pandemic, the resulting closures, the disruption of supply chains, the rise in energy prices, climate change, the war, the difficult relations with Russia and rising inflation - all this blocks the innovation process. It should actually help us keep the product on the shelf at the best possible price. It's difficult to identify trends. This is because there is a feeling that inflation is having an impact on the assortment. It is likely that items that are not essential or beneficial to the company's cash flow will be reduced because of low sales and limited profitability.

PMM The label "100% Made in Italy" is not only a quality claim, but also means shorter delivery routes. Are customers also prepared to pay higher prices for this?

TF "100% made in Italy" identifies an area and the way tomatoes are treated. First of all, the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna has developed the standard of "qualità controllata" (CQ), which can be applied by farms that pay attention to environmental protection and health. These are allowed to use only a limited number of chemicals at certain times and must control the freshness of the fruit before harvesting. The list of agents is more restrictive than the Italian law, which is already very strict in this area. Moreover, a few years ago we introduced a traceability system based on the chronological process of the tomatoes delivered to the factory and the final product that goes with them. It allows us to trace the path between the final product and the farmers who supplied the batch of tomatoes. These procedures, these processes and this quality come at a price. There are customers who recognize that and are willing to pay that higher price. Others are not, because they focus on other factors that make up a lower shelf price.

Thank you for the interview.

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