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Top Import Markets for Tomatoes


Top Import Markets for Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most widely consumed vegetables worldwide, and the global trade of this versatile fruit is booming. In this article, we will explore the world’s best import markets for tomatoes, backed by key statistics and data from the IndexBox market intelligence platform.

1. Germany – Leading the Way

Germany takes the top spot as the world’s largest importer of tomatoes with an import value of $1.6 billion in 2022. Known for its strong market demand for high-quality agricultural products, Germany relies heavily on imports to meet its domestic tomato consumption. The country sources tomatoes from various suppliers, including neighboring European countries and non-European nations.

2. United States – A Growing Market

The United States is a close contender, ranking second in terms of tomato imports. In 2022, the country imported tomatoes worth $1.4 billion. This growing market is fueled by the increasing demand for tomatoes in various forms, such as fresh produce, sauces, and processed products. Mexico, Canada, and the Netherlands are among the major tomato suppliers to the United States.

3. France – A Culinary Giant

With a tomato import value of $957.0 million in 2022, France secures the third position on our list. Renowned for its gastronomy and culinary excellence, France relies heavily on imported tomatoes to cater to its diverse culinary needs. Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands are notable tomato suppliers to the French market.

4. United Kingdom – Blooming Tomato Trade

The United Kingdom ranks fourth in terms of tomato imports, with an import value of $688.7 million in 2022. Despite being a major producer of tomatoes, the UK still relies on imports to meet its domestic demand. The country sources tomatoes from various suppliers, including the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and Morocco.

5. Netherlands – A Hub for Tomato Trade

As one of the leading tomato producers and exporters, the Netherlands is also a significant importer. In 2022, the country imported tomatoes worth $429.0 million. The Dutch tomato market is characterized by its efficiency, technological advancements, and strong export industry. Belgium, Spain, and Germany are among the major tomato suppliers to the Netherlands.

6. Russia – Tomato Imports on the Rise

Russia has shown a significant increase in its tomato imports in recent years, ranking sixth with an import value of $347.3 million in 2022. The country’s growing middle class and changing dietary habits contribute to the rising demand for imported tomatoes. Major tomato suppliers to Russia include Turkey, Belarus, Morocco, and the Netherlands.

7. Poland – Meeting Domestic Demand

Poland holds the seventh position on our list, with a tomato import value of $333.4 million in 2022. As a major agricultural country, Poland relies on imports to supplement its domestic tomato production and meet the growing demand. Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands are key suppliers of tomatoes to Poland.

8. Canada – Reliant on Tomato Imports

Canada is a significant importer of tomatoes, ranking eighth with an import value of $327.2 million in 2022. Despite being a large producer of greenhouse tomatoes, Canada’s domestic production alone is unable to meet the country’s consumption needs. The United States, Mexico, and the Netherlands are major tomato suppliers to the Canadian market.

9. Spain – Balancing Domestic Production and Imports

Spain, known for its extensive tomato cultivation, imports a substantial volume of tomatoes to complement its domestic production. The country’s tomato imports in 2022 were valued at $215.7 million, placing it in the ninth position. Morocco, the Netherlands, and France are significant tomato suppliers to Spain.

10. Italy – A Tomato Lover’s Paradise

Italy, famous for its rich culinary heritage, completes our list with a tomato import value of $200.6 million in 2022. Despite being a major tomato producer, Italy supplements its domestic supply with imports to cater to the varying demands of Italian cuisine. Spain, the Netherlands, and Morocco are key suppliers of tomatoes to Italy.

These top import markets for tomatoes highlight the global demand for this versatile fruit. As consumer preferences continue to evolve and culinary cultures thrive, the import of tomatoes plays a vital role in meeting diverse demands. The data and statistics provided in this article have been sourced from the IndexBox market intelligence platform, a valuable resource for analyzing international trade trends.

Source: IndexBox Market Intelligence Platform 



Tomato Trade Tensions Simmering Again

Nothing says “summer” like a fresh tomato. And thanks to trade, tomatoes aren’t just a seasonal treat for Americans. A trade policy battle, however, over our favorite little red vegetable that had simmered on the back burner for decades recently heated up again and might have threatened our ability to enjoy tomatoes year round.

While NAFTA – now replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – eliminated trade barriers for most agricultural exports, trade in tomatoes between the United States and Mexico remains complicated to this day. U.S. growers have made a fresh push for the Administration to protect domestic tomato production against imports of increasingly competitive Mexican produce.

Seasons of Discontent

The United States is the second largest producer of tomatoes in the world, but with each American eating an average of more than 20 pounds of tomatoes a year, we import them to satisfy high demand. Mexico is the largest exporter in the world and the United States’ top international supplier. Of the $2.4 billion worth of tomatoes the United States imported in 2019, $2.1 billion came from Mexico, representing 87.5 percent of total U.S. tomato imports.

MX imports of tomoatoes

Although Mexico exports a wide variety of seasonal produce to the United States ranging from bell peppers to blueberries, it’s trade in tomatoes that has been a consistent source of tension. That’s because tomatoes are one of the highest valued fresh vegetable crops in the United States and Mexican tomatoes directly compete with tomatoes grown in the state of Florida during the winter and early summer.

Over the last two decades, U.S. tomato production has declined substantially while Mexican imports increased. And while Florida is still the top tomato state in the nation, production there has declined steadily since 2000. Florida once had 300 tomato growers, but now has fewer than 50. Labor is one major reason for this change. Fresh tomatoes are largely picked by hand – and farm workers are increasingly hard to find and expensive.


Animated Suspension

Throughout this downward trend, the American tomato industry has complained that Mexican growers have an unfair advantage. The Mexican tomato industry has significantly ramped up production not just thanks to lower labor costs, but also extensive support from the Mexican government in the form of capital for producers, investment in infrastructure and technology to modernize the industry, and other subsidies throughout the supply chain.

The American tomato industry first filed a case with U.S. trade agencies back in the 1970s seeking relief from competition from low priced tomatoes from Mexico, which they alleged were being sold at less than fair market value in the United States (or “dumped”). The antidumping case was ultimately dropped, but after NAFTA was enacted, Florida tomato growers renewed their complaint, claiming Mexican tomatoes were a threat to the domestic industry. The U.S. International Trade Commission found in favor of U.S. growers. Facing potential antidumping tariffs on their exports, Mexican growers in 1996 entered into what’s known as a “suspension agreement.”

By law, the Commerce Department can suspend an antidumping duty or countervailing duty investigation when the parties in the case reach an agreement that meets certain statutory and policy criteria. Under the tomato suspension agreement, the Mexican industry agreed to reduce production and meet a minimum price floor for fresh tomatoes. Suspension agreements require ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance through a process that is completely separate from NAFTA or USMCA. The tomato suspension agreement of 1996 has been updated and expanded three times: in 2002, 2008 and 2013.

To-may-to, To-mah-to, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

The suspension agreements were intended to prevent further dumping and injury to the U.S. tomato industry. However, growers in the U.S. southeast have said the agreements were not successful in achieving that goal because provisions were either unenforceable or subject to loopholes. With those concerns in mind, the Florida Tomato Exchange submitted a request to the Commerce Department in November 2018 to terminate the 2013 suspension agreement.

In February 2019, the Commerce Department notified the Mexican government of its intention to withdraw. On May 7, the U.S. government officially terminated the 2013 suspension agreement and enacted a 17.56 percent duty on imported Mexican tomatoes. Some expressed concern the move would stir up a trade war between the two countries, leading to higher prices for consumers and a reduction in the winter tomato supply as Mexican growers shifted their acreage to other crops, though the Administration stated its willingness to resolve the dispute even as its antidumping investigation continued.

Then, in September 2019, the Administration announced a new suspension agreement had been reached with Mexican exporters, effectively putting an end to the investigation. The new agreement is meant to protect U.S. producers from being undercut on prices. It includes audits and border inspections to prevent imports of low-quality tomatoes that could have a similar effect of depressing prices.

USMCA’s Rotten Tomatoes

At the same time that the antidumping investigation was playing out, USMCA was picking up steam on Capitol Hill. After receiving bipartisan support in the House and Senate, USMCA was signed into law on January 29, 2020 and entered into force on July 1, 2020, officially replacing NAFTA. It is easy to see why most American farmers and ranchers rallied support for USMCA. Canada is the top market for U.S. farm products, with Mexico following in the number two spot. U.S. agricultural exports to both countries totaled $44 billion in 2018.

However, one vocal segment of the U.S. agriculture industry was not entirely happy with the USMCA provisions. Fresh produce growers in the U.S. southeast expressed concern that Mexico continued to undercut their prices, dumping cheap fruits and vegetables in the market during their peak harvest time. Farmers from states including Georgia and Florida argued they had watched NAFTA erode their share of the U.S. market and that USMCA was an opportunity to provide a remedy.

American growers from the southern region pushed for new protections in USMCA through antidumping and countervailing duty provisions as a way to even the playing field from what they see as unfair subsidies, labor and environmental practices by Mexico that make U.S.-grown specialty crops like tomatoes and blueberries less competitive.

To create some leverage in the USMCA negotiations, lawmakers from the southeast region introduced legislation, the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act, designed to make it easier for seasonal growers to petition the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate Mexico’s subsidies and dumping of cheap produce. This change would measure injury to industries with short harvest windows (like tomatoes and strawberries) on a seasonal basis rather than having to prove nation-wide, year-round harm.

Congressional letter on tomatoes

Hybrid Views in the Produce Industry

But the U.S. produce industry is not unified in its criticism of seasonal produce imports from Mexico or in its support for a trade remedy to the problem. Growers and distributors in western states like California and Arizona argued against including changes in USMCA because many of those companies work in both the United States and Mexico to ensure fresh produce is available year round. They also worried that Mexico would use the same approach against American produce like apples and grapes. Industry groups in Nogales, Arizona opposed the changes as well, citing a negative ripple effect on their economy if the produce from Mexico that passes through gateway communities were significantly reduced.

Twenty-three Senators and U.S. House members from Arizona, Texas, and California sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative opposing attempts to insert seasonal antidumping language into USMCA. The lawmakers wrote: “using USMCA as a vehicle for pursuing seasonal agriculture trade remedies risks pitting different regions of the country against each other.”

While the Trump Administration initially seemed sympathetic to the southeastern growers’ complaints, the provisions ultimately did not make it into USMCA given the concerns of other producers in the sector who would be potential targets for retaliation from Mexico. But the Administration committed to continue an investigation into the issue.

Is the Dispute Ripening Again?

In August 2020, USTR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Commerce held two hearings to collect feedback about whether trade policies are harming American seasonal produce growers. The hearings are part of an effort promised by the Administration to respond to any trade distorting practices within two months of USCMA going into effect.

At the listening sessions, lawmakers and growers from southeastern states spoke out about how their sector is impacted by subsidies and other practices by Mexico that they believe are hurting American agriculture. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked the Administration to use Section 301 authority to investigate and potentially take retaliatory action against Mexico.

Following the hearings, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he is working with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to come up with a plan to address the growers’ concerns by September 1. What action the Administration may take to protect American producers – notably located in states like Florida that may be key for the president’s re-election bid – remains to be seen.

What we do know is that southeastern produce growers seem cautiously optimistic that the new suspension agreement for tomatoes will be more effective than past iterations. And while most Americans are likely unaware of the ongoing tomato trade tension between the U.S. and Mexico, shoppers undoubtedly benefit from year-round access to affordable fresh produce.


Sarah Hubbart provides communications strategy, content creation, and social media management for TradeVistas. A native of rural Northern California, Sarah has melded communications and policy throughout her career in Washington, D.C., serving in government affairs, issues management, and coalition building roles in the agricultural sector. She is an alum of California State University, Chico and George Washington University.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.