Spain slams EU tomato rule change

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Growers claim the modifications effectively give Morocco free access to the European market

Spain has criticised a European Commission to reform the Entry Price System for tomatoes claiming it will cause significant harm to Spanish producers by clearing the way for a massive influx of Moroccan tomatoes during the peak of the Spanish season.

The Commission announced on Monday that it would modify the way it calculates entry prices to include cherry tomatoes, instead of just round tomatoes. The proposed change will raise the average entry price and effectively means that Morocco will be allowed to export to the EU tariff-free as the entry price at which point the tariff is activated will always be higher than the preferential price of €46.1 per 100kg.

Murcian exporter association Proexport accused the commission of caving in to pressure from Morocco and other non-EU countries and effectively given them free access to the European market.

“This decision is a disaster for Spain’s tomato producers and leaves us defenceless,” said José Hernández, president of Proexport and Fepex’s Tomato Committee. “This will bring about a new pricing crisis and provoke growers to abandon farms leading to significant job losses.”

The Spanish government has been calling for the Commission to apply the rules set out under article 4 of the Association Agreement between Morocco and the EU, which requires that exports from the African country are maintained at a stable level to avoid oversupply. It also called for the entry price to be raised in order to offset the effects of the changes to the method of calculating the entry price.

EU imports of Moroccan tomatoes have increased from 194,000 tonnes in 2004 to 369,000 tonnes last year.

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