The Ministry of Agriculture in Turkey imposes a restriction on tomato exports until April 14, 2023. With the measure, the Turkish government hopes to curb the extreme price increases in the domestic market and ensure food security after the recent earthquakes.
The decision has major consequences for Turkish tomato producers. The sector is currently in high season. This means that the production of one plant is high, but the costs are also considerable. Per kilo, the cultivation costs in this period are between 0.39 and 0.49 euros per kilo. Halting exports could leave growers with insufficient margin to carry out maintenance work or make it too expensive to harvest the product.
We saw a similar picture last December in the Netherlands. Fruit growers in the province of Limburg, among others, left the last part of the apple harvest hanging there. ‘For these growers, the costs for picking, cooling and sorting would be higher than the price that the fruit yields,’ said NFO director Siep Koning at the time. In Belgium, about 15 percent of apples were not picked for the same reason.
Turkish exporters of tomatoes are particularly concerned that valuable sales markets will be lost after the introduction of the export restriction. They expect that competing growing countries will not give up their products without a long-term agreement. “They will see this export restriction as an opportunity,” the industry said.
Although the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture has exempted exports to Northern Cyprus, Palestine and Azerbaijan from the rules, the impact for other countries that depend on imports from Turkey remains high. These include: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Romania. Analysts at EastFruit report that Ukrainian importers are already looking for alternative tomato suppliers, looking at Morocco, Iran and Spain, among others.
However, according to the fruit market analysts, it will not be possible to compensate the entire Turkish import volume with imports from these three countries. ‘These countries have not had a top year when it comes to tomato production either.’For example, Spanish growers had to deal with relatively high temperatures in December, which meant that vegetables grew faster than usual. That warm period was followed by a relatively cold month of January, which delayed the harvest.
The consequences of this are visible in Great Britain, among others. According to reports from the BBC, the situation is now so dire that only a limited number of tomatoes may be purchased per consumer. Good news is that the biggest dip in Spain would be over. Whether that is also sufficient in time for the countries that normally import tomatoes from Turkey remains to be seen.