Moroccan tomatoes have been gaining more popularity in Middle Eastern countries like Qatar and the UAE. The round tomato and cherry tomato varieties were not popular until Middle Eastern importers and consumers found out their good quality and reasonable prices in the market.
According to Sales and Marketing Manager, Lamia Al Adlouni of the Moroccan exporter Atlantic Gulf Company (AGCO), “The current trend started about two or three years ago and has led to increased competition within the Moroccan sector.”
In general, Morocco supplies tomatoes throughout the whole year, though production tends to diminish in the summer due to the heat. Due to that same heat factor, prices for Moroccan produce have been increasing in the last three weeks. The season for yellow cherry tomatoes and beef tomatoes is almost done, while the production of cherry round and plum tomatoes and round tomatoes should carry on.
The main competition for the Middle Eastern markets comes from Egypt, Spain and the Netherlands. “The main difference is the price. The Netherlands have easier and cheaper logistics and facilities for packaging. The varieties are all the same. It all comes down to prices.”
AGCO also trades in bell peppers. “We export red, green and yellow bell peppers. Orange bell peppers aren’t as popular,” says Al Adlouni. As with tomatoes, the Middle Eastern market prefers Dutch bell peppers, which are supplied throughout the whole year.
Bell peppers are also being exported to African markets, but for those regions, it is considered as a niche product. “As we have to ship them by airfreight, they’re quite expensive. Bell peppers are mainly sold through African high-end supermarket chains.”
With spring drawing to a close, the Moroccan fruit seasons are set to commence. Al Adlouni added that the harvest time for cherries started at the beginning of May, while peaches, loquats and nectarines started about three weeks ago. The campaign for strawberries has already finished. She is positive about the prospects of the new harvest. “We’ve had a good rain season and climatic season. So we’re hoping for the best.”
AGCO was the first Moroccan exporter for the Middle East. The family business was founded in 1992 when Lamia’s father, an agricultural engineer, worked for a Moroccan institution in Abu Dhabi. When he returned to Morocco, he started his own business making use of the network he had set up while working abroad. AGCO is HACCP certified and a partner of Azura and Les Domaines.