Export of tomatoes squashed by rivals

Local 7CANARIAN tomato exports have nosedived by a stunning 82% in the last 15 years. And the fall in local tomato exports this Millennium is a real cause for concern.

Some 352,000 tons were harvested in 2000, while this figure was down to about 63,000 tons last year.

These statistics were presented as the industry marked the 130th anniversary of fruit-growing in the Canaries.

At the beginning of 2000, there were 956 producers with about 3,400 hectares for growth. Today there are some 320 producers and 720 hectares.

The number of companies has decreased from about 70 to 15, and with it the 25,000 decline of direct and indirect workers to the current 10,000 total.

There are a couple of reasons for the decline. The first is the competitiveness of the market, with Morocco recently becoming a major player. And, with it having a similar climate as ours, it comes down to good old-fashioned economics.

In Morocco, cheap labour is exactly that. Local pickers are paid 20 cents an hour, while in the archipelago, the same worker earns about six euros per hour.

This is replicated in overheads, with the costs of water, materials, fuel, tax and so on.

The tomato ceremony was attended by Canary Islands’ Agriculture Minister Narvay Quintero and regional parliament President Carolina Darias, together with Miguel Hidalgo and Juan Estártico, respective Primary Sector directors of Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura Agriculture, plus FedEx-Aceto President Jose Juan Bonny.

They were all in agreement about the need to address the future, so that the tomato industry can recover.

Currently, Canarian tomatoes are grown on Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, and Quintero, said: “The tomato has managed to be associated with the name of the Canary Islands for a very long time, and it used to put us on the map.

“We honour the men and women who have dedicated their work to the field. But today we need a fair price, and the tomato sector is in need of more stability.”

He added: “I urge entrepreneurs, institutions and locals to get involved. Eat local. Buy local. Also, I call on the European Union to realise that the tomato industry is of significant importance for the Canaries. We want to avoid the disloyalty of other countries’ industry.”

That was a not-so-subtle hint to the EU to levy a quota on foreign, non-EU tomato imports to protect our produce.

First published in : Canarian Weekly

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