Ketchup and tomato sauce could well disappear from our plates in the next few years. And climate change is not the only culprit...
Will we soon have to give up on tomato sauce and ketchup because of climate change? There, admit it, you visualize a good dripping burger and its tray of fries generously decorated with the famous bright red sauce. Or maybe a dish of spaghetti bolognese rich in freshly made tomato sauce?
The tomato is in any case the most consumed vegetable in France: on average 15 kg per year and per inhabitant fresh, and 18.4 kg in processed form, according to the Planetoscope statistics site. We do not specifically ask ourselves the question of its availability. However, it could soon turn into a luxury product, if it does not simply disappear.
In recent years, rising temperatures across Europe have led to a drastic 80% reduction in tomato production, Spanish climate forecasting site Tiempo recently pointed out. Increasingly frequent heat waves penalize the cultivation of tomatoes, a vegetable whose ideal growth temperature is around 21-29ºC during the day and 18-21ºC at night.
Striking just as tomato plants begin to flower, the sudden and sometimes intense increases in temperatures cause many of them to wilt. Abnormally warm winters also favor the presence of pests and diseases in tomatoes. Added to the excess heat are the episodes of drought, which are likely to generate serious water shortages.
The current war between Russia and Ukraine is also negatively impacting tomato cultivation, as it is linked to increased prices and supply chain issues. Rising fuel and fertilizer costs are also impacting farmers, driven to produce less to limit expenses.
Greenhouses, finally, are part of the problem: essential for the cultivation of tomatoes in the EU, they run on natural gas, electricity or diesel, particularly for heating, maintenance and systems. watering. In a context of galloping inflation, the result therefore affects both the farmer and the consumer.
Faced with this uncertain situation, some companies are already considering an alternative. The American food company Heinz, for example, recently presented its new product, a ketchup made from tomatoes grown in an environment similar to the soil, temperature and water of the planet Mars. At the same time, Israeli researchers managed to develop, a few months ago, a new variety of tomatoes that are more resistant to drought conditions. This is just the start of exploration.