13.09.27 Miguel Arias Cañete y Aziz Akhanouch 1_tcm7-298814

Akhannouch (l) and Arias Cañete met in Casablanca last week

Spanish farm minister Miguel Arias Cañete has said the Hispano-Moroccan fruit and vegetable committee, which held its second meeting last week in Casablanca is “very positive” and defended the “path of dialogue” as the way forward in achieving better management and co-ordination in the marketplace.

The governments of both countries set up the committee in December 2012 and Arias Cañete said that its work, especially that of the tomato working party which has already met twice, is bringing results in the form of improved prices and returns to growers. He pointed to average export prices of €1 a kilo since the group was set up; some nine per cent above levels of the previous season.

Spanish producers have often complained of stiff competition from Morocco on fruit and vegetables as their seasons coincide and more recently the Spanish union of small agricultural producers, UPA, alleged that there have been breaches by Moroccan exporters in the tariff arrangements agreed as part of the wider Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco signed last year. However, Arias Cañete said the group provided the right forum for dialogue among the producers and authorities of both countries.

The Spanish minister presided over the meeting jointly with his Moroccan counterpart Aziz Akhannouch on 26-27 September. It was also attended by delegates from the fresh produce sectors in both countries as well as government officials.
A spokesperson for the Spanish federation of producer-exporters, Fepex which sent a delegation to the Casablanca meeting said: “At Fepex, our priority is to prevent disruption in the marketplace because it can have very negative consequences for grower profitability and long-term employment in the sector, a sector which is the main economic activity in some regions where unemployment rates exceed 30 per cent.”