California's production falls 16%; global problem of escalating prices Poor growing conditions cause 42% drop in Italy Tomato crop statistics issued by Amitom, the Mediterranean tomato processors' association, underline the problems the Italian producers have experienced this season. At first glance, the problem does not seem too serious, with the overall crop only down 6% compared with last year. But production figures tell a different story. Due to poor quality of the fruit, caused by lower than average temperatures and wet weather, yields were well down. This resulted in the total production of Italian tomatoes being down by 42%. The reduction was not limited to Europe, as figures from the USDA show. California's production fell by 16%, adding to the global problem of escalating prices. Importers are reluctant to comment on price re-negotiations, but with some pre-season contracts taken at prices which are now thought to be well below production cost, it would be surprising if some sort of compromise were not sought, if only to avoid possible closures of factories. Expectations are that tertiary prices will rise above 3p/can, but consumers will still be getting value for money as whole will be 12p and chopped 18p. Sources in Naples say they cost 18p and 21p to produce; whether this is fact or not, retailers will no doubt pursue their policy of using tertiary tomatoes as a loss leader. {{CANNED GOODS }}