Spain and Morocco offer stiff competition on tomato market

About 10 years ago, Holland could still boast a dominant role in the tomato market, especially in the marketing of Spanish produce. Those times, though, are over. Spain is now more than capable of handling things itself. The country supplies foreign wholesalers directly, not just in Western Europe, but in the East as well. So, Dutch importers were forced to insert some procedural changes.

Still, Holland is an important transshipment port, with over 90% of incoming produce leaving the country soon after. Plenty of opportunity you’d say. But there’s another problem. The financial crisis in Spain has slowed down import, meaning that return loads are difficult to obtain, which draws a bill on the transport costs.

It’s not necessarily an issue with some companies though. Despite the fact that the Spanish exporters in recent years, especially towards the large customers, arrange their own marketing ,there remains, according to some, enough room for Dutch importers and exporters who get it right. "Dutch companies distinguish themselves from the Spanish by their willingness to occasionally take a loss, while many Spanish companies stop supplying immediately," a trader says.

It’s the same trader who notices increasing competition from Morocco. “We started importing Moroccan tomatoes ourselves,” he admits. “It’s all about spreading the risk. If Spain fails, we can always turn to Morocco. I guess what I’m saying is, the market is changing. But you have to change with it. Don’t go against the current, but find out how you can operate within a working environment that is in constant flux. There is an interesting challenge in that.”

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