MOROCCO – Due to claims of excess pesticide residues, Portuguese authorities have destroyed a shipment of cucumbers imported from Morocco to stop it from reaching markets around Europe.

The nation had informed the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) that the pesticide oxamyl residues found in the cucumber shipment greatly exceeded the pesticide’s Maximum Residue Level (MRL), which was established at the lowest laboratory detectable level of 0.01 mg/kg – ppm.

The RASFF notification stated that the potential effects the residue could have on consumers made the Portuguese authorities’ alert “potentially serious.”

Oxamyl is considered a potent insecticide, acaricide, and nematicide against pests in the soil and on plant foliage.

Headaches, dizziness, chest pain, disorientation, blurred vision, sweating, nausea, colic, pupil constriction, or bradycardia (weak pulse) are just a few of the harmful side effects that this toxic drug can have on a person’s health.

Oxamyl can, in the worst situations, ultimately result in blindness or even death depending on the dose ingested and the frequency of exposure to the chemical.

A recent assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) identified chronic consumer oxamyl intake concerns for 34 diets.

Acute exposure concerns were identified for a wide range of crops, including crops with currently authorized oxamyl uses such as bananas, potatoes, melons, cucumbers, carrots, watermelons, tomatoes, courgettes, parsnips, salsifies, and aubergines/eggplants.

Cucumber exports in Morocco

Morocco continues to be a major exporter of fruits and vegetables to other countries. Inflation and rising food costs, however, fueled calls for a halt to exports, impacting the purchasing power of Moroccans.

Morocco shipped 20,000 tonnes of cucumbers to international markets in 2022, particularly the EU, which continues to be one of Morocco’s major customers for cucumber imports.  

According to the agriculture-focused website EastFruit, the shipment of cucumbers from the North African nation more than tripled over the previous five years, reaching a volume of 3 450 tonnes alone in January 2023.

“The country is not slowing down the growth rate of foreign trade in greenhouse cucumbers, but rather the opposite.

“The export volume of Moroccan greenhouse cucumbers only in January 2023 amounted to 3,450 tonnes,” EastFruit said.

In 2017, shipments to European nations accounted for 60% of total exports, with the remaining 40% going to African nations. Exports to African nations, however, “developed slowly” as they increased by 15% more than in 2017.

Spain tops the list of countries importing Moroccan cucumbers within the European market, accounting for more than half of exports to the EU.

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