MOROCCO – The agricultural food export authority, Morocco Fodex, has banned fruit and vegetable traders from exporting tomatoes, onions, and potatoes to West African countries, to ensure food security at home after tomato prices increased at an alarming rate.

An official, who spoke to Bizcommunity on condition of anonymity, said the ban had been imposed from Feb. 9 on any truck carrying the vegetables to West African markets.

Morocco’s farming sector’s exports rose 20% to a record 80 billion dirhams (US$7.8bn) last year despite the worst drought in decades.

Morocco’s trade with Africa in 2022 rose 45% to a record 65 billion dirhams (US$6.3bn) as the number of trucks crossing Morocco to African markets rose 88% to 45,000, official data seen by Bizcommunity showed. Agricultural food products accounted for 28% of the trade.

Tomato prices have recently risen sharply domestically in the country after cold temperatures and higher fertilizer prices reduced production

In a weekly news conference, the government spokesperson Mustafa Baitas said the government was “taking all measures to ensure regular and normal supplies” for the domestic market. Morocco recorded price inflation of 6.6% last year, but food inflation surged by 11%.

It is, however, unclear if the ban will also extend to Europe, which is a significant importer of Morocco fresh produce. Traders in the country said tomato sales to Europe, where they fetch higher prices, have also had an increase in prices.

Mohamed Zemrani, the deputy head of the Moroccan association of African market suppliers, noted the ban would harm fresh produce traders.

“The export ban means bankruptcy for many suppliers with the loss of outstanding payments exposing many to lawsuits as well as a loss of job opportunities,” he told Reuters.

Zemrani added that the ban had been instituted without any dialogue with traders and it would have made more sense to ask traders to reduce exports rather than stopping it altogether.

Global Coalition of Fresh Produce asks for a secure supply of fruits and vegetables worldwide

The export ban is on the heels of a report from Global Fresh Produce Value Chains: An Urgent Call for Policy Action, which highlights that the economic viability of the fresh produce sector is today, worldwide, threatened by many difficulties.

The difficulties originate particularly from the substantial increases in costs, inefficiencies and delays in transport, labor shortages, the reduction in the purchasing power of consumers, and obstacles to international trade.

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of healthy and sustainable diets, as well as driving economic growth and job creation globally.

According to the report, this inevitable increase in prices of the products will make it harder for consumers around the world to access healthy food.

In the report, the Global Coalition of Fresh Produce calls on national and international policymakers to urgently implement some measures to safeguard the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price for consumers around the world and thus guarantee the viability of the sector which contributes significantly to the economy of developing countries.

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