Morocco has consolidated its position as the leading non-European exporter of vegetables to the European Union (EU) during the past 12 months, increasing its level of exports to EU countries by 4.9 per cent compared with 2007.

During 2008, Morocco shipped 621,771 tonnes of fresh vegetables to Europe, considerably higher than close competitors Israel, with 357,268 tonnes, and Egypt, with 310,644 tonnes.

The figures, released by the European Office for Statistics (Eurostat), also revealed that South Africa continues to be the top exporter of fruit – excluding bananas – to the EU, shipping 1.2m tonnes of fruit to Europe in 2008, a rise of 1.3 per cent over the year before.

The country exported 428,106 tonnes of oranges – its principal fruit export – during the year, followed by apples, with 169,393 tonnes, according to the data, which was processed by Spanish fresh produce federation Fepex.

Chile, Argentina and Brazil remain South Africa’s main competitors for the European market in terms of fruit, exporting 667,750 tonnes, 687, 292 tonnes and 614,435 tonnes respectively during 2008.

Lemons were Argentina’s principal fruit export during the year, with 253,521 tonnes, followed by pears with 156,036 tonnes and oranges at 89,127 tonnes.

For Chile, apples and grapes were the leading fruit exports at 200,229 tonnes and 196,138 tonnes respectively, followed by 96,005 tonnes of kiwifruit.

Melon and apples headed Brazil’s most important fruit exports to the EU, with 171,798 tonnes and 95,992 tonnes of products shipped to Europe respectively, while 94,470 tonnes of mango were also exported to EU nations last year.