Saturday, August 30, 2014

Moroccan Tomatoes - Ripe for the Picking

Even the cat thinks Moroccan tomatoes look tasty

The flavour of Moroccan tomatoes is unsurpassed, compared to those grown in cooler climes. They are one of the country's most significant exports, with sales to Europe doubling in 10 years to 365,000 tonnes 

This summer has seen some tense negotiations between the EU and Moroccan authorities, after the Brussels Commission changed the rules for determining the entry price of Moroccan tomatoes into European territory, which would have meant taxing them much more heavily. However, a compromise was reached in late June.

For the past decade, Morocco has profited from the increasing openness of the European market, through EU-Morocco Association Agreement, which granted a duty free quota provided Moroccan tomatoes were sold at a minimum price. But Spanish tomato producers contested this, saying that Morocco circumvented this rule by selling cherry tomatoes broken into lots for a greater profit.

Brussels decided to impose the official sales price of the European market, which is often very low and determined by subsidised producers.  However, Morocco had a bargaining chip - their rich fishing waters. King Mohammed VI suspended the signing of the fishing agreement until the dispute over tomatoes was sorted out with the Europeans. The Brussels Commission agreed to make a concession, and a compromise was reached.

Most Moroccan tomatoes are grown in large greenhouses around Agadir and Casablanca, although small producers ensure a steady stream for domestic consumption.

Story and photo: Suzanna Clarke

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