The country that currently supplies Spain the most with fruit and vegetable products is Morocco, since the North African country ranks above the countries that belong to the European Union. As reported this week by the Spanish Federation of Associations of Fruit and Vegetable Exporting Producers (Fepex), those from the Moroccan country registered a year-on-year growth of 21% in 2022, with 930 million.
Fepex has explained that with these figures, Morocco becomes the leading country in the heading of imports to the national market. The neighboring country establishes itself as the first in value. For the Spanish federation, this continued increase in imports from Morocco is due, to a large extent, to the fact that this country benefits from regulatory divergence in different environments, including production, with phytosanitary requirements that are demanded of community productions and not extra-community ones.
In addition, 65% of the value of fresh fruit and vegetables imported by Spain last year came from non-European countries, with 2,456 million euros, 15% more than in 2021. The data, from the Department of Customs and Excise, shows that the interannual growth of Spanish fruit and vegetable imports from outside Europe was 2%, with a total of 1.8 million tons.
In detail, Moroccan imports stood at 540,149 tons in 2022, with a growth of 10% compared to 2021, for a value of 930 million, 21% more. After Morocco, the first supplying countries are Costa Rica, with 322,137 tons and 222 million euros; Peru, with 217,554 tons and 423 million euros and Brazil, with 125,078 tons and 139 million euros.
Moroccan product, from Spanish and French farms
Due to the fact that imports from Morocco have warned in the last year, Spanish fruit and vegetable producers are affected in their sector. The state head of the fruit and vegetable sector of COAG (Coordinator of Organizations of Farmers and Ranchers), Andrés Góngora, explains that “the vast majority of Moroccan produce is in the hands of farms that have been created by Spanish and French people who have gone to produce to morocco to seize the benefits that it offers them.” so he clarifies that the benefits are much higher for the neighboring country.
The national products that have lowered their demand the most are: tomato, pepper or watermelon, which increased their import from Morocco but decreased the national one. According to Fepex, the import of tomatoes from Morocco increased by 10 more tons in 2022; the pepper, 15 tons and the watermelon; 35 tons. While the bean, for example, is the product that first disappeared in Spanish production according to Góngora. In this sense, he explains that it has happened because labor “is very necessary in the collection of these seeds and very expensive; that is the element of competition between the Moroccan and Spanish countries.” And this has caused that little by little the neighboring country has taken control of the production.
“Labor costs are lower in Morocco than in Spain”
The data compiled by Fepex show the discontent of national producers, because they are not on an equal footing with the Moroccan market, since they have advantages such as cheaper phytosanitary products. This was confirmed by the state head of the COAG fruit and vegetable sector: “We would differentiate ourselves from the phytosanitary point, in addition to the fact that we have different labor regulations and laws, the climate is also different,” he asserts.
On the other hand, Andrés Góngora wants to make it clear that despite the fact that supermarkets say that they demand the same requirements in both countries, “it is not true, that is cheating.” Europe has developed regulations and laws that, on the contrary, in Morocco have not created any type of fiscal or environmental issues, therefore it is a “cheating” message, indicates Andrés.
Solutions to resolve this controversy
Due to the great diversity of reliefs that make up Spain, which is a country with various types of climate in which fruits and vegetables can be grown in different seasons of the year. In addition, they have open experience in the development of these agricultural activities, but this is not enough to compete with Morocco, where they have a market and sell their products much cheaper than ours, explains Andrés Góngora.
The solutions that Andrés and the farmers propose are mainly that the European Union protects the Spanish market. In addition, he thinks that the context of globalizations is very misunderstood “they demand local regulations from us, but the price they pay us is national,” they point out. He also indicates that one of the objectives for the fruit and vegetable sector is to convince consumers to consume the Spanish product, since it is not the same that is produced in Spain as it is in Morocco.
Third country providers
Within the European Union, France is the leading supplier of the Spanish market in terms of volume and has registered growth in 2022, with one million tons imported; or what is the same, 20% more than in 2021 and points to 379 million euros, 36% more.
The next country to stand out for imports to Spain is Portugal; registering 342,877 imported tons, 13% more than the previous year and all for a value of 286 million euros. And finally, the Netherlands and Italy also stand out at the community level.