Water shortage causes tomato worries

Final tonnage figures for the 2007 Italian tomato crop confirm they fell below the original forecast of 4.8 million in spite of a longer season that processors hoped would enable them to reach the five million tonne mark. Lack of water has resulted in a poor yield, particularly in southern areas. The south has always been a large producer of good quality tomatoes so the water problem is giving serious cause for concern. Packers had difficulties in achieving premium quality standards due to the crop problems. "2007 was one of the most challenging seasons for many years due to inconsistency of the raw material coming from farmers," said a source in Naples. "PH was an issue on some of the lower grades and needed very careful controls." The 2008 tomato pack could be further reduced if changes to the subsidy system this year cut the acreage for tomatoes. A proposal that farmers will get paid by acreage rather than tonnage could possibly mean a switch to more lucrative crops such as wheat.