Increasing interest in widening the varietal range' Canary Islands think specifics Canary Island tomato growers believe the time is not far off when specific varieties will be grown on an exclusive basis for European multiples, according to Manuel Santo Gonzalez, director general of Cocarmen, the Tenerife based cooperative group. "Many of the largest exporters both here, in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, already provide full traceability and there is increasing interest in widening the varietal range," he explains. Already there are signs the industry is becoming less reliant on Daniella which accounts for around 80% of production. But it is now being challenged by new Dutch and Israeli crops with names like Thomas, Alcudia, Gabriela and Van Dos. A recent conference on the Spanish mainland sponsored by Novartis attracted more than 250 delegates. Speakers, including importers and multiple buyers from across Europe, stressed that the market would be further influenced by the promise of better tasting fruit, and growers had therefore to be more aware of consumer demands. The UK is a major market with Canary Island imports of more than 110,000 tonnes a year or 37% of the exportable crop, so any switch could have big repercussions on the marketplace. Novartis business development manager Alex Bingham expects both Spanish and Canary Island growers to develop more tomatoes on the vine, which are still in their infancy. "Buyers want this type of fruit year round," he added. "It is no longer a case of simply producing what grows best." Francisco Mesa, president of Aceto, the Canary Isles Tomato Exporters Association, added: "There is also interest in the new range of plum, beef and cherry tomatoes." Meanwhile, most exporters agree they are under pressure and need new solutions. Apart from direct competition from the Spanish mainland throughout the winter, there is, in the longer term, the threat from the relaxation by the EU of the Moroccan quota system which will allow more cheaply grown fruit into Europe. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}