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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/tomate-maroc...

by Gerard Lepuil

A Tomato’s Tale

Translated Saturday 26 July 2014, by Meghan O’Shea

Gerard Lepuil’s column in La Terre. "By exporting its tomatoes today, Morocco is selling its future water. If we forego this purchase, we allow the children of Morocco to have more water for decades to come. “

Litigation over imports of Moroccan tomatoes to Europe was resolved at the end of June, following a telephone conversation between the European Commissioner for Agriculture and the Moroccan Minister of Agriculture. However, details of the contents of the agreement were lacking, just as the precise reasons underlying the disagreement are still unknown.

Despite not having a full accounting of the details, it is believed that Morocco, through an alleged fraudulent use of its customs clearance system, exceeded its European export quota of tomatoes. It is claimed that this will now be more difficult to accomplish. However, Morocco says it will bring a complaint before the European Court of Justice prior to July 15th. Officially, the country exports more than 350,000 tons of tomatoes to Europe, per year, of which 80,000 are cherry tomatoes. More than half of these are sold in a single country: France.

From Agadir to Paris, a tomato truck drives over 3,078 km with transportation costs amounting to € 4,100, or 30% of the total cost of production.

That is not the case for French producers. Supermarkets’ buying power is more powerful than necessary. Although imports are not needed to meet demand, they allow retailers to reduce the number of purchases from French producers, causing prices to fall.

When buying tomatoes, check their country of origin, and ask some questions before buying Moroccan tomatoes. We have good reasons to buy French grown tomatoes. A Moroccan tomato has a disastrous carbon footprint, as the place of production is so very far from the place of consumption. A tomato picked in the Agadir region and consumed in France has traveled 905 km by refrigerated truck, even before it crosses the Strait of Gibraltar by boat.

After arriving in Algeciras in Spain, it still has 1,926 km to go, also by truck, before being delivered to Paris. If it is destined for the south or the east of France, it will travel 1,004 km from Almeria in Spain to Perpignan. Then head to Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand or Besançon. In Europe, 93% of fresh fruit and vegetables are transported by truck. From Agadir to Paris, a truck transporting tomatoes will drive over 3,078 km with a cost of 4,100 euros, 30% of the total production cost. However, the price of the pollution is not included in the total. That will be paid by future generations.

Morocco’s future generations have an additional bill awaiting them. In the Souss, the agricultural area surrounding Agadir, greenhouses are draining the supply of groundwater. According to L’économiste.com, a Moroccan online newspaper, the water levels of the region’s two reservoirs were down by 94%, in the Spring of 2014, as opposed to a projected 85%.

By exporting its tomatoes today, Morocco is selling its future water. If we forego this purchase, we allow the children of Morocco to have more water for decades to come.

Photo caption:
When buying tomatoes, check where they’re from and ask some questions.

Credit: AFP

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