Resilient Moroccan soft fruit farming in navigating seasonal challenges

In this discussion with Nabil Babache, representing Larache-based exporter Rika, we delve into the evolving landscape of red berry production in Morocco. We highlight key trends, challenges, and the role of exporters in shaping the industry.
Nabil remarks, ‘Morocco’s berry season combines nature and nurture, with each year introducing its unique rhythm. This season is no exception. As we approach the first raspberry harvest, optimism is tempered by caution due to challenges in the previous season. Low prices and modest volumes prompted significant changes in the supply chain. Some seed companies reduced their provision of berry seeds to growers, reflecting a prudent approach to production.’
Nabil explains the impact of these challenges on the current season. ‘The cultivated area for strawberries and raspberries in Morocco is expected to shrink overall compared to last year. This decline is especially noticeable in the Agadir region due to damage from strong winds and scorching heat. Consequently, production from this region is expected to decrease. However, the northern region remains unaffected, with output likely to match last year’s.’
Weather patterns, as Nabil calls them, ‘the unsung heroes or culprits in agriculture,’ play a pivotal role. ‘While the southern regions faced challenges, recent rains from Kenitra to Larache have benefited red fruit growth, leading to noticeable improvements in plant development,’ says the exporter.
Nabil remains optimistic about the potential for higher prices due to the decrease in cultivated area. He notes, ‘As the industry gears up for the first strawberry harvest in mid-September, all eyes are on market dynamics and their impact on the season. Looking beyond Morocco’s berry production, Spain, another major player in the market, is also anticipating a reduction in cultivated area. This parallel trend in two major producing countries could affect global supply chains and pricing.’
For instance, Nabil cites the case of a raspberry variety widely grown in Morocco. ‘When we examine export price trends, not factoring in packaging, conditioning, or transportation costs, we see fluctuations. Prices went from $4.42 per kg in 2016 to a peak of $6.93 per kg in 2018, settling at $6.60 per kg in the previous season. Current projections indicate a stable market with prices expected to reach $6.76 per kg for the 2023-2024 season.’
Nabil also anticipates a shift in the types of berries produced this season. ‘There’s a growing preference for blueberries, which are maintaining a steady acreage. This suggests changing market tastes, with blueberries gaining popularity among growers at the expense of red berries.
Geopolitical tensions, trade restrictions, and global economic downturns continue to create hurdles for Moroccan exporters. The exporter highlights an example, stating, ‘Political developments, for instance, significantly reduced demand from Russia, a crucial market for Moroccan berries.’
Despite the challenges from climate hazards and commercial uncertainties in the previous season, exporters aim to maintain their achievements and demonstrate resilience. Nabil emphasizes, ‘Morocco’s impressive position in the global berry market is worth noting. Recent data shows that the nation has risen to the third spot in global fresh raspberry exports, even surpassing the USA. This underscores not only the quality of Moroccan berries but also the strategic efforts of exporters like Rika, in accessing profitable markets and establishing a reputation for consistency and excellence.’
In conclusion, Nabil states, ‘Regardless of shifts in the industry or seasonal variations, our commitment to delivering quality remains steadfast. As Rika and other leading exporters gear up for the upcoming season, our goal is to embody the spirit of innovation and adaptability that defines the Moroccan berry sector. While the challenges of the past year were manifold, they have also played a vital role in shaping our strategies for the future. The lessons we’ve learned, whether in diversifying markets, optimizing production techniques, or improving supply chain efficiencies, are invaluable.




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