The UK is primarily an import market for tomatoes already, with most of the fruit sold here coming from Spain and Holland. More imports are expected in the near future from Poland (16,000 tonnes a year) as well as North African countries such as Morocco (20,000 tonnes).
Poland has long produced tomatoes but has historically focused exports on Russia and Germany. Both Poland and Morocco are now eyeing the UK market because they have relatively low production costs and are benefiting from the technical expertise of established exporters to the UK via investments made by Dutch and Spanish growers. Morocco is also expected to gain greater access to the UK market as part of trade negotiations with the EU in the coming years.
British growers needed to make sure they were ready to compete, John Giles, a divisional director at agricultural consultancy Promar, told the British Tomato Growers' Association conference last week. Being British would not be enough, he warned.
"The trend towards local provenance has certainly helped British growers, but they also have to be highly competitive on price," he said.
The UK was a prime target for any tomato importer, with affluent consumers and an appetite for a wide range of varieties, and the Spanish and Dutch were unlikely to give up their share of the market as imports from Poland and North Africa increased, he added.