Morocco Restricts Tomato Exports Over High Domestic Prices

To reduce domestic costs, Morocco has curtailed tomato shipments since late February and completely banned them from last week through Thursday, according to the leader of the primary organization representing the nation’s fruit and vegetable exporters. The Federation of Moroccan Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables (FIFEL) head, Lahoucine Aderdour, told Reuters that the Agriculture Ministry had agreed on a daily quota of tomato exports last month before halting all exports from March 18 to 22 with a lower quota of 700 tonnes per day beginning on Thursday.

According to him, exporters were allocated a quota of 1000 tonnes on Friday, which was less than the customary 1500 tonnes they had. The limits do not apply to more expensive produce like cherry tomatoes, which account for more than half of the country’s tomato exports to North Africa, according to Aderdour. This year’s vegetable harvests have been hampered by bad weather in Morocco and Spain, which has resulted in a shortage of key ingredients for salads across Europe and higher prices that helped drive UK inflation to 10.4% in February. Traders worry that the export restrictions will reduce their market share in important markets in the UK and the EU.

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One trader claimed, “We are failing to honor our long-term supply contracts,” noting that the majority of agreements with British customers are made a year in advance at set pricing. Morocco’s reputation as a reliable supplier of tomatoes to the EU and UK markets is in jeopardy, he continued. Both the agency in charge of food exports and the agricultural ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters. Yet, a government official claimed on Thursday that it was impossible to discuss exports while local food costs were high in response to a question concerning inflation. Last Tuesday, the central bank of Morocco raised its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to 3%, marking the third consecutive hike due to inflation.

Last month, food inflation increased to 20.1%, bringing overall inflation to 10.1%, the highest level since the 1980s. Once output increases, “we anticipate normal export business to resume,” Aderdour said. Morocco likewise put limits in place last year, but they were removed after domestic prices plummeted. According to data from the agriculture ministry, the Souss-Massa area of Morocco, which produces the majority of the country’s tomatoes, anticipates a production of 695,000 tonnes this year as opposed to 975,000 tonnes last year. According to one exporter who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the export restrictions may force growers to switch to cherry tomatoes or other unrestricted goods. “Taking into account current production costs and export restrictions… the market for round tomatoes is no longer lucrative, “added he.

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