Mozambique Tomato Mafia – Customs link?

Mozambique’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Armando Inroga, has promised that the people responsible for restricting the entry of imported tomatoes into Mozambique will be arrested, reports Thursday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”. Since early March a group of speculators has successfully pushed up the price of tomatoes in Maputo markets by obstructing cross-border trade, sometimes physically seizing trucks hired by small scale Mozambican importers. The group, in collaboration with some South African citizens, has taken up positions on the South African side of the border and is preventing other importers from bringing tomatoes into Mozambique. To achieve this, they evidently enjoy the protection of some people within the South African police or customs service. Huh! Really?

As a result, the price of tomatoes in Maputo’s main wholesale market has more than doubled in the space of five weeks, rising from 200-250 meticais (about seven to nine US dollars) to 500 to 600 meticais for a 22 kilo crate.

Inroga described the obstruction to trade in tomatoes as “illicit and criminal” and in violation of the rules governing the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Free Trade Area. He said that the Mozambican and South African governments are now working together to guarantee the normal circulation of people and goods on both sides of the border. The government sent a team from the National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) to work with the South African authorities, with the support of the Mozambican consulate in the eastern South African city of Nelspruit.

“The South Africans have begun to investigate these acts to identify the culprits and arrest them”, said Inroga. “Very soon the people associated with this movement to obstruct cross-border trade will be detained”

Mozambique resorts to importing tomatoes from South Africa because national production is insufficient to meet demand, particularly in Maputo which consumes 40 tonnes of tomatoes a day. Source: Noticias, Mozambique

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