The Moroccan Government is trying to apply pressure on the local tomato prices, by stopping exports to European markets. With Ramadan coming up, the tomato is an important product for the Moroccan consumer, as it’s the base for the soup they eat during this time. A European importer states it’s no longer possible to buy the tomatoes from Morocco, while a Moroccan exporter states this is only the case for lower quality products.
According to one Dutch importer of tomatoes, it seems like Morocco has put a full stop on the export of their tomatoes to European markets: “The round tomatoes from Morocco are not allowed to leave the country. Moroccan government has decided not to export tomatoes to the EU anymore, because wheat prices and food prices in general are rising. The reasoning is that if they stop exporting the tomatoes, and instead use them for domestic consumption, prices could fall slightly. Ramadan starts in early April, so the Government wants to make sure sufficient volumes of tomatoes remain within the borders of Morocco, so that people have something to consume during the Ramadan. The snacking tomatoes can be exported, but the producers cannot fill containers with just the snacking tomatoes, so that's the next problem they have to deal with."
According to Fatiha Charrat, commercial and marketing director for Delassus, the Government is only intervening to ensure Cat. 2 tomatoes are not exported for more profits: “Since the market of round tomatoes is very strong in Europe, importers are putting pressure on Moroccan suppliers. This ended up causing two problems. First, there was a price increase in the domestic market at a critical moment. Tomato is the base of the Harira, the Moroccan soup people consume during Ramadan. This means that a lack of tomatoes during this period is devastating for consumers. The second issue is that some exporters would be encouraged by the prices in Europe to start sending category 2 tomatoes. To avoid the export of cat 2 and stabilize our domestic market, ONSSA, the Moroccan food safety administration, will increase the control level to ensure that cat 2 tomatoes are not exported. The Government has already stopped export to African countries which use cat 2. This only concerns round tomatoes, snacking tomatoes are still okay."
In a later update, Charrat stated: "We've just learned that Morroco will reduce the weekly volume by 40%. So the export is now released after the meeting held between APFel, the association of producers fruits and veg, and government.”
Another Moroccan fruit trader stated that there is not actually an official ban, but quality inspections are forcing tomatoes destined for export to the local market: “Due to bad growing conditions, we have a smaller tomato harvest. This in turn has led to higher local prices, right before Ramadan, which is next week. Local citizens are complaining about the high prices to the government. There is currently not an official ban of tomatoes from the Moroccan Government. In response, the government quality inspection agency turns up at packhouses where they reject consignments destined for export due to "quality reasons". This forces producers to sell the tomatoes on the local market to alleviate the shortage and hopefully lower prices.”
Bloomberg states that Morocco sends about 430,000 tons of tomatoes to the European Union every year, making it the Union's largest external supplier. Due to the drought in the North African country, the price of one of Morocco's cheapest fresh basic foodstuffs has risen sharply in recent weeks. Inflation has sparked rare protests in the country.
Export restrictions would halve the local price for tomatoes to less than 5 dirhams (€ 0.46) per kilo.