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Egypt and Morocco Emerge as Key Suppliers Amidst Soaring Food Inflation

Following the UK's exit from the European Union, Egypt and Morocco have become pivotal in reshaping Britain's horticultural market. This change, largely due to Brexit in 2020, has led to a marked increase in British imports from these countries over the past five years.

The introduction of Brexit resulted in more complex import regulations for products from EU member states, including fruits and vegetables. Consequently, British importers have increasingly looked to non-EU countries. As a result, the proportion of non-EU imports in the UK market increased from 47% to 51% by 2022, a trend that has continued.

The UK faced severe food inflation in 2022-2023, compounded by the complexities of import procedures. This led to a reduction in supplies from several non-European countries and a significant transformation in the UK's fruit and vegetable market, particularly in terms of supplier composition. Egypt and Morocco have seen the most substantial growth in their export volumes to the UK during this period.

From 2018 to 2022, the UK's imports of fresh, dried, and frozen produce from Egypt grew by 150%, while Moroccan goods nearly tripled. In contrast, imports from traditional European suppliers like the Netherlands, Belgium, and France declined, with French imports halving over the same period.

Interestingly, Poland, an EU member, managed to increase its market share in the UK, with a 33% rise in fruit and vegetable imports over five years. Spanish exports to the UK also grew in 2022, reflecting the impact of climate change and other adverse events on produce prices. Before these developments, Spain's export figures had been relatively stable.

The UK has also expanded its import relationships with Peru and Turkey, while reducing fruit and vegetable purchases from South Africa, the USA, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile. In many cases, produce from these countries has been replaced by imports from Egypt and Morocco.

In 2022, the UK spent approximately £440 million on Moroccan vegetables and fruits, with expenditures in the first nine months of the current year already reaching a record high of about £366 million.

Moroccan exports to the UK are primarily greenhouse tomatoes and mandarins, with fresh berries becoming increasingly significant. Last year, the UK spent about £166 million on Moroccan fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and garden strawberries, while tomato and tangerine imports were valued at approximately £169 million and £38 million, respectively.

Other notable Moroccan exports include a variety of greenhouse vegetables, watermelons, and avocados.

Egypt's exports to the UK, though half that of Morocco's, also reached a record of about £187 million in the first nine months of the current year. About 75% of this value comes from the top four categories: fresh grapes, oranges, fresh strawberries, and onions, with fresh strawberries showing the highest growth rates.

The UK has recently increased its import of frozen strawberries from Egypt. Other prominent Egyptian exports include sweet potatoes, mangoes, peaches, lemons, and dried onions.


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