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Tomato Shortage to Continue Amid Soaring Prices in Morocco

 Echoing the government’s justification, several experts have attributed the decrease in Morocco’s vegetable and fruit production and price increases to climate challenges and geopolitical disruptions, including the Ukraine-Russia war.

Shortages of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables has become a source of concern for many in Morocco, with this contributing to unprecedented hikes in the prices of products whose supplies are dwindling in markets across the country. 

A new report by the agriculture-focused website FreshPlaza has highlighted the situation of product shortages in several countries, including Morocco – indicating that weather conditions have caused shortages of agricultural products like tomatoes.

“Bad weather in Morocco and Spain has disrupted vegetable harvests this year. This has led to European shortages of salad commodities such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and so on,” Fatiha Charrat,  deputy managing director for Moroccan fresh produce exporter Delassus Group, told FreshPlaza. 

Morocco is one of the largest exporters of vegetables and fruits to the European Union and England.

In January, data from FreshPlaza indicated that Morocco almost overtook Spain in tomato exports to the EU between 2018 and 2022, with the kingdom’s tomato exports to European countries increasing by 38% in the first 10 months of last year.

The data also showed that Morocco was the second largest tomato exporter to Europe in 2022, with 405 million kilograms of the kingdom’s products sent to European countries.

Yet faced with drought and lack of rainfall concerns, Morocco’s government has pledged to step up efforts to prioritize the national market amid overwhelming food prices.

Among the measures announced is the need to curb tomato exports to Europe to maintain steady supply of products in markets across Morocco. This measure was to be especially implemented during the holy month of Ramadan, when tomato demands peak.

Despite such pledges, the prices of tomatoes and other food commodities have continued to increase in markets around Morocco, weighing down the purchasing power of low- and average-income citizens.

Many have expressed their disillusionment with the government’s failure to keep its promises in the midst of a depressing situation for the large majority of Moroccan households. Over the past weeks, activists and opposition politicians have called out the government for “doing nothing” to tackle the alarming cost of living crisis.

According to Charrat, tomato shortages in Morocco were due to adverse climate conditions, including cold weather in the Souss region. The region,  among the top producers of tomatoes in Morocco, was hit by cold weather during the first weeks of 2023, which directly affected tomato yields.

“Temperatures ranged from 1 to 13 degrees Celsius, with high thermal amplitudes. This simply burned a couple of bunches of tomatoes, which were to be harvested in March. In addition, the remaining tomatoes had setting issues and ended up with a small range. That’s why we saw, for instance, a 17% drop in the Duroc crop,” she said.

Blaming exports

Charrat acknowledged the drop in tomato supply in the national market amid Ramadan, emphasizing that exporters have been “under pressure from their partners.”

She also stressed that most of the tomatoes produced in Morocco were exported,leaving the local market flopping and struggling to meet citizens’ demands

The expert grimly assessed that tomato shortages will continue in Morocco until mid-May. , “Tomatoes accounted for 50% of Morocco’s fresh produce exports,” she said, recalling that Morocco’s exports of fruits and vegetables recorded a 13% increase during the 2021-2022 season compared to the season before.

Amid the depressing situation, the Moroccan Social Front has called for sit-ins this weekend in several Moroccan cities to protest against the government’s inability to protect struggling Moroccan households’ purchasing power in the midst of a worsening cost of living crisis. 

“The unprecedented high prices are not a fact but rather the result of policies hostile to the interests of the people and the country, the danger of which has always been pointed out by all progressive forces in our country,” the association said in a statement earlier this week.

Source : Morocco