A company that produces kunserva has promised farmers it will increase their remuneration for tomatoes by up to a fifth.

The pledge comes after farmers had threatened to cut their tomato supply if the “pittance” they receive for the produce is not improved.

Vernons’ “consideration towards the hard work that goes into producing tomatoes” has earned them the endorsement of Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi (United Active Farmers), which is still calling on the other two local processors to pay farmers a “fair price”.

“Many consumers ask us what they can do to support farmers. This is one example: choose products of companies that treat farmers better,” Malcolm Borg, coordinator of Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi, said.

“The cut-throat market is unforgiving, so to have a company that decides to compensate farmers better for their work is commendable.”

Earlier this year, 200 farmers said they made a meagre €240 EU-subsidised profit from every tumolo of land on which they grow tomatoes for kunserva between February and August.

The Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi had told Times of Malta that they were planning a production ‘strike’, cutting their supply by 35 per cent.

But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about food-related turmoil, the farmers decided they did not want to cause any further uncertainties for something as crucial as food and temporarily shelved their production reduction threat temporarily.

Borg said that following the Times of Malta story, the Agriculture Ministry called a mediation meeting, and further separate meetings with the three tomato processors and the farmers’ association, which was assisted by the General Workers’ Union. Following numerous meetings and negotiations, Vernons agreed to give farmers a more profitable rate.

“The association believes in rewarding farmers who tend and cultivate their tomatoes better and subsequently have higher yields. Professional cultivation calls for more resources and therefore increased expenses, leading to the ridiculous profit margins farmers were making off tomatoes,” Borg said.

So, while Vernons dropped its price slightly for low yields (7,000 kilos or less), it will increase the profit gradually with higher yields – the higher the yield, the higher the profit.

Compared to current prices, Vernons is increasing its payment by 22 per cent if a farmer produces 9,200 kilos of tomatoes.

A tumolo can generally yield bet-ween 7,000 and 9,200 kilos, and while some farmers produce one tumolo worth of tomatoes others can produce up to 70 tumoli.

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