Transparency And Sustainability of Supply Chains – The Worldwide Case of Tomatoes

Project location: ITALY
Project start date: January 2016 - Project end date: January 2017
Project number: 2016-005
Beneficiary: Terra! Onlus


This project aims to carry out an investigative report on the entire tomato supply chain (both at local and global level), and to launch an advocacy campaign which could shed light on how the various levels of agricultural supply chains are responsible for the deterioration of local economies, causing exploitation, production imbalances, deterioration of environmental resources and of resources’ distribution. The second step is to identify strategies and solutions to be put forward to the authorities, companies and citizens.
Every product on the shelves of supermarkets has its own story which, increasingly, tells us how the agro-industrial sector is largely influenced by a financial system that speculates and makes money by creating a distorted and non-transparent market. The tomato concentrate imported from China and subsequently exported as Made In Italy to Europe and Africa is one of the most obvious examples of distorted supply chains that rely on the exploitation of natural resources and agricultural labour and do not allow processes of social and cultural renewal.
Italy’s leading agricultural product and the symbol of Made in Italy, tomatoes are picked annually in the countryside of southern Italy between Puglia and Basilicata by armies of labourers who are underpaid, exploited and subjected to a para-mafia gangmaster system. Tomatoes are partly consumed directly, partly transformed into secondary products such as concentrate – most of which are for export markets such as Germany, the Middle East and above all Africa.

On the one hand, we have the Italian supply chains based on labour exploitation, and on the other, the global market that allows each product to travel freely around the world, often causing a mechanism of land grabbing.
Perhaps the most dangerous legacy of Expo Milan is an agro-industrial market presented as "beautiful" and communicative, a Made in Italy as a thriving industry which is indeed based more on appearance than on substance. But what is the impact of the global market on these activities? And what are the consequences for local communities?

It is therefore necessary to focus on the supply chains, starting from an emblematic case such as tomatoes. The aim is to raise awareness on the need for more transparent practices, enhanced by the authorities and implemented by the companies, in order to make citizens aware of what they are eating, and also minimizes the risks for the environment, such as the use of pesticides, as well as the negative social impacts, such as the exploitation of labour and the impoverishment of local communities.

Thi project received a grant from the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation.

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