Morocco’s red fruit conquer foreign markets
RABAT - Morocco has intensified efforts to boost exports of red fruit and enter new markets, despite intense competition and climatic challenges threatening the sector’s sustainability.
Indicators suggest the annual production of red fruit in Morocco is expected to total about 197,000 tonnes this season, an increase of 84% compared with 10 years ago.
Faced with prices falling 25% in European markets this season, especially for red cranberries, Moroccan farmers turned to the domestic market. Some farmers ceased exporting to focus on domestic markets to sustain production growth.
Sector professionals attributed the price fall to a large increase in production of the same fruit in Spain, a major competitor for Moroccan produce in the European Union. Nevertheless, Moroccan red fruit professionals won shares in new markets, including Britain and North America.
The red fruit sector in Morocco is a driving sector of the economy because of broad export prospects. In addition to Europe, Moroccan red fruit are available in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.
Moroccan Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fishing Aziz Akhannouch said Moroccan products have secured larger market shares in foreign markets and entered new markets. Ministry data indicate that the red fruit sector is providing more than 10 million working days, half of which are in the Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region.
With an annual turnover of more than $312 million, nearly 90% from exports, the sector plays an important social and economic role in boosting state revenues and providing jobs.
The ministry said that good results at the production level and the high demand for strawberries in European markets contributed to a significant increase in the acreage dedicated to the fruit.
Al-Wazzarani al-Anqoud, vice-president of the Red Fruits Exporters Association, emphasised that Moroccan red fruit products have strong shares in major foreign markets. He called for continuing to target additional markets and to strengthen Morocco’s position in traditional foreign markets the country deals with.
Total area allocated to the cultivation of red fruit in Morocco increased from 3,035 hectares in 2009 to about 9,000 hectares during the past two years.
The increase in the cultivated areas led to a leap in fruit production. The sector’s average production is 197,000 tonnes this year. About 140,000 tonnes were earmarked for export.
Data from the Union of Moroccan Fruits and Vegetables Professionals stated that strawberry cultivation, 40% of farmland devoted to red fruit, dominates most areas reserved for red fruit. Raspberries, which are growing in popularity among farmers, are the second-largest crop. Red cranberries have a very high added value in Morocco because they are exported to about 40 countries.
The union said that two-thirds of the sites where red fruit cultivation was concentrated were in the region of Larache, followed by Loukkos and Souss-Massa, which account for about 30% of production.
Official data show that the Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region has produced, in the past two years, about 127,000 tonnes of red fruit — about 65% of the local production. That includes more than 110,000 tonnes of strawberries, 10,360 tonnes of blueberries and 6,200 tonnes of raspberries.
Conditioning and packaging crops take place in 62 specialised units all over Morocco, with 27 facilities in the Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region, 13 in the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, 20 in the southern region and two units in the central region.
Moroccan red fruit growers have focused on improving their crops, which allowed them to enter markets on five continents. The European Union accounted for 90% of Moroccan red fruit exports the past two years.
The remaining share of red fruit exports went to Asian markets (5%), Gulf markets (1.5%) and about 3.5% went to the Free Trade Agreement countries of North America, Africa, South America and Central and Eastern Europe.