In the presentation of the events that will be organised to commemorate the 130th anniversary of this agricultural activity in the Canary Islands, which started in 1885 in the Valley of Nine, in Telde, Gran Canaria, the unions Aceto and Fedex have requested the support of official institutions for this industry in the primary sector, so that it can remain relevant to the economy of the Islands. Early in the year 2000, the Canary Islands were producing some 352,000 tonnes of tomatoes for export through 75 companies and 956 producers, generating more than 25,000 direct jobs on an acreage totalling 3,400 hectares. At present, two-thirds of producers (320) have been lost, there are only 15 companies and the acreage has been reduced to 720 hectares, distributed between Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura; furthermore, the number of jobs in the sector has dropped to 10,000.
In turn, the Canary tomato production has fallen by about one sixth (63,000 tonnes in 2015).
The arrival of pests in the late twentieth century and, above all, competition in the European markets from Moroccan tomatoes, are the two main causes of the fall of an activity which was the economic engine of the Canary Islands before the arrival of tourism.
The sector's unions have reported that the price difference at destination between the tomatoes from the Canaries and those of Morocco exceeds 60 percent, largely due to production costs, since in the Islands 5 to 6 Euro are paid per hour of labour, while in Morocco this figure stands at just 20 cents.
"The quality and excellence of Canarian tomatoes have not changed," said the president of the Parliament, Carolina Darias, which has encouraged the sector to persist in its modernisation, both when it comes to the production and in helping guarantee a degree of competitiveness at destination. It is consequently considered vital for transport subsidies to conform to the remoteness of the archipelago.
"We must convince the State and Europe that this sector is essential for the Canary Islands and that unfair competition from third parties needs to be controlled, with limits set to their entry," stressed Quintero, who added that the Canarian Government is committed to developing a strategic plan for tomatoes and to stand with the sector to enable it to thrive "for many years to come."