Larger packers concerned about their stock positions After last year's crop failure in Italy, tomato growers will be taking a tough line with canners as the two sides start their pre season contract negotiations. Switching subsidy payments from canners to growers complicated last year's contracts, but Brussels remains firm in its policy and rumours that last year's change was about to be reversed are unfounded, according to sources in Naples. Some growers were penalised by delays in the subsidy payments compared with previous years, when canners gave part payments early to assist in financing the growing programmes. Opinions still differ among canners as to the total pack, but with sales in the UK up on the previous year, there is serious concern that there could be some shortages before August when the new pack will be available. Importers would not be drawn on the possibility, but there is evidence of heavy inter-trading between the large and smaller packers, who still have odd pockets of unsold stock, suggesting the larger packers are concerned about their own stock positions. The recent increases of tertiary labels to 12p for plum peeled and 18p for chopped are unlikely to slow demand. Even at these levels, retailers complain they are still losing money, so another rise in early summer before the new pack starts cannot be ruled out. {{CANNED GOODS }}