Italy's disappearing tomatoes

The Italian heatwave has caused pomodoro production to drop by a quarter. John Phillips reports from Rome

A new chapter is about to be added to the history of Italian disasters. It may not quite be up there with the Fall of Rome or Vesuvius erupting, but the Great Tomato Massacre of 2010 is very bad news indeed for a country that has the humble but versatile pomodoro at the heart of its culinary life.

The farmers' trade union, Coldiretti, said yesterday that production of the tomato, used religiously in Italian kitchens and in tinned sauces and purées spicing up the daily bowls of pasta, was down by as much as 25 per cent due to exceptionally high temperatures. After getting battered by the heavy rains that pounded much of Italy in June, the plants are now being scorched. "The heat has led to a tomato massacre," Coldiretti said. The average harvest of pomodori per hectare of land will tumble from 80,000kg last year to an average of 60,000kg this year, said the union statement.

Rolando Manfredini, a food expert working for Coldiretti, said: "Above 30C, plants become stressed and are no longer able to grow, despite irrigation. The fields have been caught in a pincer of extreme weather conditions – first the torrential rains last month flooded the fields and prevented roots developing, while now the heat and humidity are weakening the tomatoes, which dry up, making flowers and fruit fall. A reduction in yields of 20 per cent is disastrous for tomato farmers, as their profits are well below 20 per cent."

Prices in shops could increase because of speculation by wholesalers, who are often quick to take advantage of such slumps in output, Mr Manfredini added. For every euro spent on food products in Italy, only 17 cents ends up in farmers' pockets compared to 25 cents around five years ago, he said.

Irate Italian farmers took to the streets last week to demand government support. About 10,000 peasant farmers from the south marched through the piazzas of the Apulian port city of Bari on Friday, protesting against the cuts in agricultural subsidies that form part of the centre-right coalition's austerity budget.

Italian dairy farmers, meanwhile, report that their cows are producing 15 per cent less milk than normal. The ideal temperature for cattle is between 2C and 24C rather than the current high 30s and even mid-40s. The effect of the heat, aggravated by humidity, means the animals eat little, drink a lot and produce less milk.

Farmers have set up showers, fans and air conditioning in their cowsheds, as well as giving the cattle potassium salts to eat in their foodstuffs. These measures are all increasing production costs, union officials said.

But farmers may get some consolation in the autumn. Because of the heat, the outlook for the grape and olive harvests is good, assuming there are no more freak weather conditions. "Wine and olive production should be good, but we'll have to wait and see what the meteorological conditions are," Mr Manfredini said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable