This season there is keen competition between growers from the Mediterranean region and, in view the general economic crisis, it is expected that there will also be some difficulties in sales. A significant increase in production costs must also be added to the equation.
Faced with the surrounding competition, Spain is working on differentiating themselves in terms of quality. Quality, not only for the product itself, but also for the whole range of business activities related to it, using all kinds of certification and regulation adherence: environmental certification, residue analysis, risk prevention in the workplace, etc.
In general, all parts of the value chain are looking for new drivers for the most popular vegetables, drivers that set the product apart and where the recuperation of traditional flavour is becoming increasingly important. Various sources in the sector commented to this magazine that innovations, together with the so-called specialities are on the increase every year, even in times of crisis. “It could be that the crisis results in more sales of loose, standard tomatoes but we have to continue innovating because the crisis will not last for ever and not everyone will be affected by it”.
Another trend in differentiation is the increase in crops grown under integrated production. Every year this technique is growing by more than 30%. It is a rising trend and it is thought that in the mid-term it will become the exclusive method. Spain with more than four million tonnes is the second largest European grower of tomatoes after Italy. Spanish companies hold an important share of the market that they do not want to loose and countries with cheaper labour costs such as Morocco, Turkey or Egypt are mounting stiff competition in some markets that had been hard to win.
Spanish tomato production has grown significantly but in recent seasons there has been a certain levelling off, especially in the Almeria region. One of the achievements of the Interprofesional Hortyfruta organisation has been to approve the use of an international norm that classifies tomato into four types: round, wrinkled, long and cherry. This, together with labelling norms should help the business.
Morocco, the eternal rival
According to sources in COAG, since the year 2000 there has been a 58% increase in Moroccan exports to Europe and this has, on different occasions, caused market saturation and serious price difficulties. The entry price of Moroccan tomato does not cover production costs for tomato grown in Europe. Official figures from the European Commission reveal that Europe consumed 292,000 tonnes of tomato from Morocco in the 2007-2008 season.
If that isn’t bad news enough, the situation could get even worse when Morocco gains access to the EU’s “Advanced Statute” project. When this happens they will be able to access funds from the Fruit and Vegetable OCM and their products will be able to circulate freely in the EU market without any entry price at all. This preferential agreement will have a negative effect on Spanish agricultural markets.