The European tomato suppliers are facing significant challenges that threaten their long-term sustainability. These challenges include continued cost inflation, climate change impacts, and new EU policies aimed at protecting the environment. These issues were highlighted during the Fruitnet’s Global Tomato Congress held on May 16th at the World Trade Center in Rotterdam.
Cindy van Rijswick, the global strategist for the fruit and vegetable sector at RaboResearch, provided an overview of the current state of the tomato business and the obstacles it is facing in 2023. She emphasized the various challenges and risks that the tomato industry is currently grappling with, including global conflicts, rising costs, and climate change. However, she also acknowledged that there are potential solutions to address these issues.
Inflation was a significant concern in 2022, although the fruit and vegetable sector experienced less inflation compared to other industries. Consumer price inflation for vegetables remained high at nearly 15 per cent across the EU during the first quarter of 2023.
One of the key long-term challenges for tomato suppliers is the implementation of stringent EU regulations aimed at protecting the environment. Luc Vanoirbeek, the general secretary of the Belgian producer association VBT, expressed his view that the sector will face radical changes due to climate change and the increasing demand for environmental solutions. Retail businesses are putting pressure on producer organizations to improve their environmental practices, making it a constant concern for growers.
While environmental protection is crucial, there are worries that it might negatively impact profitability, especially considering the threat posed by pests and diseases like the tomato brown rugose fruit virus. Some fear that the proposed European policy may limit the use of essential plant protection products, potentially hindering their ability to tackle these threats effectively.
Vanoirbeek stressed the need for a balanced approach, supporting the Farm to Fork policy while ensuring that it remains affordable, realistic, and fair for tomato producers.
In summary, the European tomato suppliers are facing a complex combination of challenges, including inflation, climate change, and new environmental regulations. Finding sustainable solutions while maintaining profitability will be crucial for the long-term viability of the tomato industry in Europe.