The election of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister and his announcement that the United Kingdom will definitely leave the European Union on October 31 has caused panic to spread among tomato producers in the Canary Islands.
Most of them export around 50% of their production to the United Kingdom, and there are two companies that sell exclusively to this country. If a no-deal Brexit happens, as Johnson has announced, the shipping subsidies received through the Posei, with which Europe tries to compensate for the archipelago's remote location, would decline. Without this aid, exporting is unfeasible.
Given this situation, producers have decided to take action. They don't want October 31 to arrive and find themselves starting the harvest without a market to sell their tomatoes, thereby losing the investments made. As a result, the acreage this season will be reduced by 15%, according to sources from the Federation of Associations of Exporters of Fruit and Vegetable Products of Las Palmas (Fedex).
The island of Fuerteventura, which last year exported around 4 million 6-kilo boxes, will not produce or export tomatoes this year. The only company left on this island, the Gran Tarajal Cooperative, is abandoning the activity due to the sector's difficulties, not just the high costs, but also the strong competition from countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, as well as the threat of Brexit.
In Gran Canaria, six companies will operate this campaign, one less than in the previous one, while the three there were in Tenerife will also continue. All of them will, however, reduce their productions.
Cucumbers are also seriously threatened by Brexit. This season, the number of producers has been cut in half and reduced to three.
In the previous campaign, 51,362 tons of tomatoes were exported. This year's figure will be lower, although for now there are no official data. In any case, the current sales figures for Canary tomatoes abroad are much smaller than in the best years. In the 80's and 90's, the Canary Islands exported around 450,000 tons of tomatoes per campaign. In addition to tomatoes, the region exported cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and green beans. These figures made the islands the European region exporting the most tomatoes in the period from October to May. That is now history. The high production costs, strong competition from other countries and the lack of generational renewal have all resulted in tomatoes losing ground.