This year there have been delays in the negotiations between growers and canners of Italian tomatoes. Growers cited an unexpected 16% reduction in the EU subsidy paid to them, which has forced them to rework their evaluations. The swing from whole plum to chopped continues in all markets - 67% of UK canned tomatoes are chopped, while 33% are whole - and in five years the split is expected to be 75%/25%.
Growers are awaiting final forecasts for the 2007 pack before deciding which variety to plant, as whole plum varieties have a better subsidy but a lower yield. Growers and processors see this year as an opportunity to get the balance right between varieties to avoid last year's shortage of chopped and oversupply of plum.
"Prices overall will be higher due to the subsidy and labour costs but most important is the tonnage available," said a Naples processor.
There are no official figures yet, but production is expected to run to 4.6 million tonnes against last year's 4.2 million, reflecting the actual quantity available for processing after the average 10% wastage. China expects a normal tomato crop.
The organisation for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries, a multilateral fishing industry body based in Tokyo, has joined in the discussions concerning sustainability of fish stocks, particularly large tuna varieties such as big eye, bluefin, yellowfin and albacore.
Yuichivo Harada, its MD, said: "All countries now agree time is limited as a resource." The PRTF is pushing for worldwide tuna fishing limits.
UK buyers have been confused by much of this rhetoric. Skipjack, which accounts for most of the canned product eaten, is excluded from the list of endangered species. It is much smaller and reproduces within a far shorter timespan. World supplies are currently able to meet demand, according to importers.
Animal rights campaigners have taken out advertisements condemning the culling of seals by fishermen on Canada's East Coast. They called for a boycott of fish products produced in Canada, including salmon. The West Coast fishing industry has responded by explaining it has no connection with the seal cull. A UK importer said: "The canneries, fishing methods and production facilities go through some of the most rigorous inspections imaginable."