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COAG criticizes French Azura for selling Saharawi tomatoes

Western Sahara Resource Watch 18.01.2011

COAG criticizes French Azura for selling Saharawi tomatoes

The Spanish agrarian organisation COAG is convinced that the impending EU-Moroccan agricultural trade liberalisation agreement could be illegal for implicitly including Western Sahara. COAG has now condemned French company Azura’s presence in the occupied territories.

The proposed EU-Moroccan reciprocal trade liberalisation agreement for agricultural and fish products has been signed by the European Council, but still lacks the approval of the European Parliament.

Under the envisioned EU-Moroccan liberalisation scheme, French company Azura anticipates to sell about 100.00 tons of fruits and vegetables, 91.000 of which will be tomatoes.

Spanish agricultural organisation COAG believes Parliament should not endorse this agreement, as it may violate international law for including the Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara. “This zone should not be included because the United Nations do not recognise the sovereignty of Morocco over this territory, but at the same time Morocco has included it in the agreement”, explains the secretary of COAG Almería, Andrés Góngora, to Spanish newspaper Diario de Almería.

The European Parliament’s legal services will present a report on the legality of the draft-agreement by the end of the month. In 2009, the EP’s legal services declared the EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement illegal for not taking into account the benefits and the wishes of the Saharawi people.

Mr. Góngora also stated that the French company Azura owns 200 hectares of tomato greenhouses in Dakhla, in the south of the Saharawi territory. Tomatoes grown here are transported to EU markets, via Perpignan in France.

Azura is specialised in the production of fruits and vegetables in Morocco. Its first greenhouses were constructed on Agadir in 1988. The company is at the forefront in the use of biological control techniques and new infrastructural and irrigation technologies. Today, Azura’s vegetables are competing with Almerian produce.

Góngora claims that Morocco has exported tomatoes to the EU below the minimum prices set out in the current agreement during the last days of December 2010 and early January 2011 (0.461 Euros per kilo). Morocco has committed similar infringements with e.g. zucchini at the beginning of 2011, according to the Price Monitoring Board’s data. "They now have three months to pay the customs duties or to present invoices showing that price they’ve asked was higher, but we are confident that they will not pay a penny," he says.

 source: WSRW