As September draws to a close, we take stock of Italy’s tomato harvest for the year and assess the ever-increasing impact of climate change on one of the nation’s most iconic food exports. 

Italy produces a lot of tomatoes.  It is the largest grower of the red fruit (yes, fruit) in Europe, and second largest in the world, second only to California.  Italians themselves consume around 30kgs of tomatoes (in various forms) each per year, whilst exporting approximately 2 billion USD of the processed produce.  It is no surprise then, that many are keenly observing the progress of this year’s harvest.  

The initial statistics on Italy’s tomato harvest for 2019 are slightly concerning.  Adverse weather conditions, which many see as symptomatic of climate change, have rendered a negative impact on cultivation, and the ability to harvest/process.  The late onset of Spring and a greater occurrence of extreme weather, including spells of heavy rain and storms, have not only resulted in the Northern regions harvesting before the South but also a lower overall yield.  Coldiretti, the principal Italian farmers organisation, estimates that the total tomato harvest will be approximately 8% lower than initially expected.

The news is not entirely gloomy however.  Whilst yields are expected to be lower, the quality of the tomatoes harvest is reported as very good:  the crops have an excellent color and a high Brix value, consistently above 4.8.

The lower yield and relatively high quality of the tomato harvest in Italy this year is expected to cause a rise in prices for Italian tomato products, from passata to tinned tomatoes.  Despite this increase, however, it is worth noting that current prices are still some way below the average prices for Italian tomatoes across the previous five years, as indicated by the latest statistics from the European Union.

As climate change causes more frequent adverse weather conditions, making favorable growing conditions harder to achieve and accurate yield predictions more difficult, it is likely that producers will be pushed to invest in more technology and therefore ultimately pass the increased cost onto the consumer.  

For more information on Italian food products, including the most competitive quotes from Italian producers, don’t hesitate to get in contact with the Italian Food Experts.