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Competitors Grow Wary as Moroccan Tomato Exports to the EU Expand

Fresh Tomato
Price Trend
Oct 13, 2021
Written by
Mzingaye Ndubiwa
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Exports of fresh Moroccan tomato exports to the EU have steadily increased, leading to competitors in the EU tomato industry repeatedly lobbying for more stringent import rules. Moroccan tomatoes are competitively priced, and growing exports are a concern for leading suppliers such as Spain and the Netherlands. As a result, EU tomato exporters have recently requested the European Commission revise its import laws for Moroccan tomatoes.

Moroccan tomatoes are increasing in the EU

Moroccan tomatoes have a 6% market share of the EU-27+UK’s 7 billion kg market. Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy, the leading suppliers, have shares of 23%, 13%, and 11%, respectively. However, in recent years, EU imports of Moroccan tomatoes have increased steadily, averaging over 3% per year, with Dutch tomato exports remaining around the same level since 2011. The rising popularity of Moroccan tomatoes is due to low production costs, EUR 1.12 (USD 1.30) per hour in Morocco compared to EUR 8.37 (USD 9.69) per hour in Spain. The competitiveness of Moroccan tomatoes is apparent in tomatoes that require more labor, such as the smaller cherry and snack varieties.

Many competitors are fighting for a share in different tomato markets, with intense competition from Moroccan tomatoes occurring in France and the UK. In France, Morocco is the largest supplier of tomatoes, with 63% market share, followed by Spain with an 18% share. Both countries share similar harvest seasons and have shown a negative correlation over the past twenty years. Therefore, while imports from Morocco have risen, imports from Spain have dropped, and vice versa.

The case is similar in the UK, where there is a clear connection between the surge of Moroccan tomatoes and the decline of Spanish tomatoes. Before Brexit, the UK was the third-largest EU tomato importer. However, difficulties caused by the UK's departure from the EU are limiting Dutch and Spanish exports to the UK, while Moroccan imports continue to grow. Spain is a key tomato consumption market in the EU, with consumption reaching approximately 1 billion kg. However, despite Spain's high self-sufficiency rate for tomatoes, the country's imports of Moroccan tomatoes have increased from 21 million kg' in 2010 to 78 million kg in 2020.

Stringent import laws on Moroccan imports only short term

Reduced Spanish tomato production has constricted export volumes. The factors reducing the country’s tomato production include; reduced profits for growers, partly due to Moroccan competition in both the EU and UK; increased competition from northern European growers that have started to produce year-round; and a shift among Spanish growers to other crops. Tomato exporters from the Netherlands feel Morocco’s competitive pressure. However, they are also limited by factors such as the customs formalities brought about by Brexit. Therefore, according to Rabobank, a leading financial services provider for the food & agribusiness sector, restricting Moroccan imports will only benefit competitors in the short term. Long-term solutions may include investing in consistent quality, flavor, service, and lowering labor costs.


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