Supermarket apples fruit aisle Getty

Source: Getty Images

British supermarkets are increasingly reliant on Moroccan fresh produce

Ministers are calling for closer trade ties with Morocco to support year-round food security as a new report identifies its growing supply of fruit & veg to UK retailers.

UK buyers are increasingly turning to Moroccan fresh produce over produce from traditional European countries, a survey from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Morocco found.

Survey respondents from the retail sector considered Morocco “fundamentally more important to the UK than the raw data may suggest”.

“The growth in UK/Morocco agriculture trade was further explained as a secular shift in reliance by UK importers away from traditional suppliers, such as Spain,” the APPG report said.

Moroccan imports play an increasingly large role in providing fresh fruit & vegetables in the UK’s winter, with Q1 2023 imports at £168m – almost triple of the £60m imported in Q1 2018.

Morocco is Britain’s fourth-largest trading partner in Africa, according to ONS data, and ministers are now calling on the government to deepen its trade ties with the nation.

The strategy would aim to avoid shortages such as those seen earlier this year, when unseasonably cold weather devastated fruit & veg crops and led to weeks of patchy availability across UK supermarkets.

Read more: UK fruit & veg supply threatened as Morocco heatwave decimates crops

At the time, it surfaced that other continental retailers did not struggle with supply as much, with critics pointing to Britain’s weakened trade relationships post-Brexit as a key factor.

Morocco fruit and veg trade ONS

Source: APPG/ONS

The APPG’s report called on the government to seek to establish preferred buyer status within the Moroccan market, and to develop and publish an annual trade impact report.

“We’re delighted to publish this report, which shows the great strides taken between the UK and Morocco”, said Heather Wheeler MP, chair of the APPG on Morocco.

“Agriculture trade is crucial for both our countries, keeping British families well fed with affordable, secure produce and helping economic development in Morocco. I urge the UK government to renew its commitment to bilateral trade to make sure these mutual benefits continue to grow.”

Read more: Morocco fruit & veg supply secured as court rules against trade lawsuit

Industry also backed calls for the prime minister to appoint a new trade envoy to Morocco, the report noted.

Abir Lemseffer, deputy CEO of Moroccan fresh food importer Azura Group, told The Grocer: “The Moroccan business community considers the UK a priority market and so I am delighted that MPs recognise both the huge successes and future potential of bilateral agriculture trade.

“We will always be strong, reliable partners to supermarkets in the UK. The whole of Morocco – from Tangier to the Sahara region – benefits enormously from this burgeoning partnership, while ensuring that British families can eat affordably, healthily and well.”