A group made up of tomato producers in France, Spain and Italy and government representatives from these countries has warned of the alarming rise in Moroccan tomato imports into the EU this season. The Franco-Hispanic-Italian tomato contact group, which met yesterday in Brussels, said imports are up 50 per cent on the same period last year.

Figures for the St Charles wholesale market in Perpignan – the main point of entry for Moroccan tomatoes – show that in October, imports rose by 66 per cent compared with the year earlier period. Imports for November were up by 55 per cent.

The group is warning that if allowed to continue unchecked, the actions of Moroccan exporters “will provoke a serious imbalance in the EU market resulting in heavy losses for producers in the three European countries”.

It said that article 4 of the EU-Morocco Association Agreement was intended to maintain existing levels of tomato exports and avoid market disturbances and that the rise in imports proved that Morocco was failing to comply with the agreement.

It has called on the European Commission to implement measures to safeguard the market, as set out in the agreement, and to alter the new way in which it calculates the value of imports, which it claims is less efficient and is failing to provide adequate protection to the market.

The meeting also analysed the outlook for the current tomato season, noting that planted area in the three countries had remained broadly stable.