13 Jan 2023

MOROCCO, A GROWING REALITY IN THE WORLD OF BERRIES

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The recent growth in blueberries and raspberry production in Morocco has much to do with its proximity to Europe, but other export markets are increasing every year, says Nabil Belmkaddem, general manager of the BestBerry cooperative.

Morocco has made significant progress in recent years in terms of berry production. Would you tell us a little bit about the development you have seen in recent years?

  • Over the past five years or so there has been steady growth in raspberry production and blueberries, while strawberry production has remained fairly stable. Production of blackberries has not been convincing and growers are pulling back. Lately we have also seen the planting of valuable varieties of blueberries and the development of new production areas of blueberries, particularly the Dakhla region in southern Morocco for early production of blueberries and the Middle Atlas Mountains for summer production of blueberries.
Production of blueberries in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.
Production of blueberries in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.
Strawberry production in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.
Strawberry production in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.
Raspberry production in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.
Raspberry production in Morocco from 2015 to 2021.

What are the advantages of Morocco?

  • Of course, Morocco's geographical proximity to Europe is essential to ensure a short transit time between Moroccan production areas and major European markets. Morocco has adequate infrastructure and logistical know-how to transport fruit under optimal conditions. Morocco has a stable political and financial system that encourages European companies to invest in Morocco. Our labor force is skilled and our climate ensures a long growing season without frost.

Have you seen a growing interest from the European market?

  • Of course, the winter production window makes Morocco very competitive and attractive to European markets. In general, the berry sector in Morocco is an extension of the European sector, with the overall goal of meeting the demand of European markets. But Moroccan exporters also ship fresh berries to the Middle East and Russia and send them to Asia by air. This business is increasing year by year.

Is climate change becoming a growing problem?

  • Higher temperatures are a problem. For example, the start of strawberry flowering was affected by higher night temperatures in nurseries and fields after planting, and we now have an unusual production gap at this time of year.

What about the availability of manpower?

  • It is increasingly difficult to find adequate labor throughout the season, and growers are adapting to this situation by providing transportation to bring in workers from more distant areas.

Are Moroccan companies investing in high-tech machinery?

  • We are seeing interest in the use of specialized equipment for sorting blueberries, as well as in the use of heat-sealing machines with cardboard punches and optical sorters for frozen berries. Companies and cooperatives that produce blueberries fresh are offering solutions for outsourcing their members' production and thus investing in production lines for freezing.
Nabil Belmkadden, Global Berry Congress 2022.
Nabil Belmkadden, Global Berry Congress 2022.

What are the biggest challenges at the moment?

  • The main challenge for Moroccan growers is demand or market uncertainty. There are weeks when Moroccan produce is sold at very low prices, and this has a major impact on growers' returns. Rising production costs are a major concern for growers trying to remain profitable, but it has not prevented investment in solar panels for irrigation, for example. The main concern is the sustainable use of water for irrigation, as the lack of rain is alarming in Morocco. In addition, berry production generates a lot of plastic waste, and great efforts need to be made for recycling.

Source:Fruitnet
Fruitnet is part of the NCX Media network.

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