The repercussions of Morocco’s summer heatwave are poised to persist for European consumers throughout the year, impacting crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. The intense heat, particularly prevalent in the crucial fruit and vegetable growing region of Souss-Massa, where temperatures soared to a historic national record of 50.4°C in mid-August, continues to resonate.
The dependency on Morocco to compensate for deficits in Spanish tomatoes has resulted in depleted shelves in locations like the UK. With Spanish tomato volumes once again on the decline, concerns arise about a potential recurrence. In November, Murcia Today reported that approximately 40% of the tomato crop in that Spanish region had been severely affected by ToBRFV.
The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) issued a cautionary note, highlighting that elevated temperatures pose a threat to UK food imports from the Mediterranean. As of 2022, just over a quarter of Britain’s food imports originated from the Mediterranean region, with Spain alone accounting for 7%.
Fatiha Charrat, deputy general director of Morocco’s Delassus, emphasizes the significance of the events that transpired last summer in Morocco. The plantations were already grappling with a considerable impact from ToBRFV when a series of heatwaves swept through the region.
By the end of July the previous year, Charrat notes that growers had successfully replanted up to 30% of the virus-affected area, thereby shortening the winter production cycle but creating a temporal gap in availability. However, this replanting effort faced an additional setback with the onset of unprecedented heat in August.
“In August, temperatures soared to over 50°C for an extended period, resulting in the scorching of all the young plants,” Charrat reveals. “Inside the greenhouses, temperatures reached 70°C. The young plantings from July were incinerated, necessitating yet another round of replanting, not to mention the loss of numerous tomato bunches from other plants.”
Charrat explains that the newly replanted tomatoes only commenced production in mid-December, meaning that from September to December, Morocco struggled to meet the expected tomato volumes. However, there is a glimmer of optimism as she states, “The situation is gradually returning to normal, and all our growers are now able to fulfill their orders.”