Belgian tomatoes found to be “less costly” than Spanish tomatoes. This is the finding of a master’s thesis carried out by Ellen Peeters, who looked into the social and economic costs of importing tomatoes. Social costs are borne by society (congestion, accidents, air pollution, noise and climate change), rather than by the consumer. Peeters said, “When growing tomatoes in Belgium, external costs mainly consist of CO2 emissions, but these represent only 2% of the total cost. The remaining part is the production costs, which mainly consist of energy (31%) and labour (20%). Because to grow tomatoes in greenhouses in the winter in Belgium requires a lot of lighting and warmth, and that quickly increases the price of Belgian tomatoes. When tomatoes are imported from Spain, production costs are generally lower, but external costs are much higher (around 15% of the total). These costs are mainly caused by transport between Spain and Belgium: 10 cents per kilo of tomatoes when transported by truck, 1 cent per kilo of tomatoes when transported by rail.”
Peeters conclusion is that if the latest cultivation techniques are used, producing tomatoes in Belgium is cheaper than importing tomatoes by road from Spain; conversely, Spanish production is cheaper if the tomatoes are transported by rail. This is a particularly relevant finding given that 89% of Spanish goods are currently transported by road.