Data showing the increase in merchandise exports from Morocco has raised concerns among many, including citizens affected by the rise in prices of fruits and vegetables in local markets.
Morocco has surpassed Iran and Spain and has become the third world exporter of tomato in 2022, according to new data from the specialized agriculture website EastFruit.
According to the data, Morocco "ranked 3rd place, surpassing Iran and Spain and showing the largest increase in exports in one year... among all countries."
The website identified the increase in Moroccan tomato exports by 17% compared to a year earlier, when Morocco was ranked 5th in the 2021 world ranking.
Only the Netherlands and Mexico surpassed Morocco in the rankings. The United Kingdom remains one of the largest markets, having increased its tomato imports from Morocco.
“Over the past five years, local tomato growers have been increasing their supply to UK markets each year, and by the end of 2022, sales volumes have increased to a record 140,000 tonnes,” EastFruit said.
France is also among the largest consumers of Moroccan tomatoes, but the country's supply of the Moroccan product is "gradually declining" each year, the data added.
The new data comes amid local frustration over vegetable and fruit exports due to rising food prices in Moroccan markets.
Many, especially consumers, have been calling on the government to stop exports of vegetables and fruits to help balance and relieve pressure on household purchasing power.
During the month of Ramadan, when there is high demand for tomatoes, prices soared to over Dh10 per kilogram.
The situation has infuriated citizens, who have shared their frustration and lack of trust, accusing the government of making no effort to address the cost-of-living socio-economic crisis.
The government, however, has promised measures - including curbing exports - and has reassured citizens about the constant supply of the market.
The government also blamed the rise in prices on adverse weather problems and other factors.
Data on the continued increase in vegetable and fruit exports, however, continue to raise concern among citizens.
Experts have also warned of possible pressures due to shortages of food products, including tomatoes.
Fatiha Charrat, deputy general manager of Moroccan fresh produce exporter Delassus Group, told FreshPlaza earlier this month that the tomato shortage will continue in Morocco until mid-May.
Tomatoes are part of the main fresh produce exports, having represented 50% of Morocco's exports, he said.
Charrat highlighted that the country's vegetable and fruit exports recorded an increase of 13% during the 2021-2022 season compared to the previous campaign.