Swedish grocery chain stops selling Western Sahara tomatoes
"It turns out that the tomatoes are from Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara, so we are not going to sell them anymore. These things are not supposed to happen", stated media officer Ingmar Kroon at the Swedish grocery chain Axfood.
It was the Swedish magazine 'Västsahara¨which in April this year discovered cherry tomatoes from the firm Azura in a shop in Gothenburg. The shop belonged to the grocery chain Axfood, with 225 shops in Sweden.
Azura is a French-Moroccan business producing vegetables in Agadir and in the the occupied town of Dakhla in southern parts of Western Sahara.
"I know the Western Sahara issue well. Of course we should not sell products from an occupied territory", said Axfood's media officer Ingmar Kroon to the Swedish magazine.
When Axfood carried out its first control, they were told that the tomatoes were from "Southern Morocco", but when looking further into the issue, they discovered they were from Dakhla. Azura stated to Axfood that EU's agreement with Morocco also covers Western Sahara.
"But we are not of that opinion", stated Mr. Kroon.
In 2009, Azura tomatoes were discovered also in the shops of Coop in Norway and Sweden. Coop Norway then promised to halt all furthher imports. Coop Sweden announced that their tomatoes, on the other hand, only came from Agadir - not Dakhla.
8000 people work in the Azura's giant green houses in Dakhla, most of all producing tomatoes and melons for exports.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.