Initially conceived by the French Nicolas Appert, and consecrated once and for all to the Paris Exposition from Francesco Cirio in 1867, the cans containing peeled tomatoes are now one of the flagships of the Italian food chain. While in the past the problem could have been too low an offer to meet demand, today the main problem concerns the containers. In fact, from mid-July onwards, when the tomato harvest begins, the risk is to have tons of tomatoes, but without the classic can that allows them to be transported and above all stored. Italy is among the world leaders in the production of preserves: over 5 million tons are processed, head to head with the China and behind only the United States of America.
According to reports The Republic, two thirds end up in tinplate cans, the material that arrives in the form of steel coils mainly from China, to then be transformed into cans by our companies. “Few large multinationals and many SMEs – explains Giovanni Castelli, director of Anfima, the Italian national association of Metallic and similar packaging manufacturers – concentrated in Emilia and between Naples and Salerno “, close to tomato crops. “In a few months the price of the reels has gone from 400 to over a thousand dollars a ton” points out Natasha Linhart, CEO of the Bolognese company Atlante.
It was not only the tomato sector that was affected by the increase in the price of materials: “At the end of 2020, beer suppliers started cutting smaller brands due to the scarcity of cans. serious emergency “adds Linhart, warning that the risk is that of “leave the tomatoes to rot in the fields”. The consequences of the pandemic also hit the sector in this case. While steel mills had culled production, in reaction to the demand of the crashed auto industry, the demand for some consumer products – especially food – has skyrocketed.
Everyone started stocking up at home, especially tomato pulp and peeled tomatoes. The warehouses were thus emptied and once normal demand was restored, the producers of semi-finished products were left behind: “It takes two years to upgrade the lines of the factories,” Linhart comments. And to play a crucial role is the import of material from abroad, with the unions pushing up investments in the former Ilva of Genoa to increase the production of tinplate: I am alone 100 thousand tons produced, close to a national requirement that is around 800mila.
If we add to this context the increase in transport costs and the fact that the holders of the material have begun to accumulate for themselves, the price increases can be explained: “Tinplate weighs 60-65% on the cost of the can” says Castelli. “On a half-kilo can, that’s 3 cents increase” Linhart comments. “A lot for a product that costs so little”. Never before has everything been so uncertain. “The only certainty,” he says Giovanni De Angelis, director of Anicav, association of canneries “is that the increase in the cost of steel, with the increase in the cost of labels, cartons and plastic, will weigh on the cost of finished products”.