A Silver Lining for Some Moroccan Producers After Poor Harvest

Olive oil production recovered from the lows of the previous harvest, but remained significantly below the five-year average. Still, some producers celebrated award-winning quality.

(Photo: Noor Fès)
By Amélie David and Daniel Dawson
May. 16, 2024 15:58 UTC
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(Photo: Noor Fès)

A dis­ap­point­ing har­vest has con­cluded in Morocco with some good news for a few pro­duc­ers.

Adil Bajoub, an agro­nomic engi­neer and coor­di­na­tor of Morocco’s first olive oil-spe­cific Master’s degree, told Olive Oil Times that Morocco is expected to pro­duce 109,836 tons of olive oil in the 2023/24 crop year.

Though ini­tial dry con­di­tions raised con­cerns, recent rains in Marrakech have bright­ened our out­look for the upcom­ing sea­son.- Wajih Rekik, chief exec­u­tive of CHO America

While this exceeds the ini­tial expec­ta­tion of 106,000 tons and last year’s yield (which the International Olive Council revised down from 156,000 tons to 107,000 tons), it remains sig­nif­i­cantly below the five-year aver­age of 160,000 tons.

Rachid Benali, the pres­i­dent of the Moroccan Interprofessional Olive Federation, told local media that a lack of rain­fall in the months before the har­vest resulted in far lower lev­els of oil accu­mu­la­tion than pre­vi­ously expected.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Morocco

In the dry zones, pro­duc­tion [was] min­i­mal,” he said. Even in areas with good olive fruit set, the olives were very small. Instead of reach­ing 20 to 22 per­cent, oil yields were between 10 and 15 per­cent.”

However, some of the county’s farm­ers and millers still achieved award-win­ning qual­ity. Three pro­duc­ers com­bined to earn one Gold Award and two Silver Awards at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The har­vest this year turned out bet­ter than expected, despite the rain short­fall,” said Wajih Rekik, the chief exec­u­tive of CHO America, which earned a Silver Award for its Moresh brand.

Our olive oil qual­ity was high, achiev­ing acid­ity lev­els under 0.2 per­cent in much of our pro­duc­tion,” he added. Though ini­tial dry con­di­tions raised con­cerns, recent rains in Marrakech have bright­ened our out­look for the upcom­ing sea­son.”

While CHO Group is Tunisia’s largest olive oil pro­ducer, the com­pany also man­ages 280 hectares of olive groves near Marrakech.

According to com­pany data, CHO Group will export 600 tons of Moresh extra vir­gin olive oil in the cur­rent crop year, with France, the United States and Canada as the main des­ti­na­tions. Our sales in 2024 quadru­pled com­pared to 2023,” Rekik said.

About 400 kilo­me­ters north­east of Marrakech, the pro­duc­ers behind Noor Fès also cel­e­brated a rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful har­vest and Gold Award for an organic Picholine. The fam­ily grows about 300 hectares of olive trees near Saïss.

the-best-olive-oils-production-business-africa-middle-east-a-silver-lining-for-some-moroccan-producers-after-poor-harvest-olive-oil-times

The producers behind Noor Fès believe the local Picholine variety is the key to overcoming climate change-related challenges in Morocco. (Photo: Noor Fès)

This year’s har­vest was really well,” said Ghizlane Tazi, the company’s gen­eral man­ager. Our pro­duc­tion is sta­ble com­pared to last year: we have around 400 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Tazi attrib­uted the company’s resilience to its invest­ments in the olive groves and agro­nomic prac­tices. Still, she acknowl­edged the impact of the ongo­ing drought and intense heat­waves on many of the county’s olive oil pro­duc­ers.

We have a durable and effi­cient drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem,” Tazi said, adding that Picholine olives tend to blos­som in early April, mean­ing they were not impacted by the strong heat­waves and dry winds expe­ri­enced in May when other vari­eties tend to blos­som.

By metic­u­lously man­ag­ing our irri­ga­tion and min­i­miz­ing the effects of olive tree alter­na­tion through appro­pri­ate tree prun­ing, hand-pick­ing to pro­tect the buds,” Noor Fès avoided the extreme pro­duc­tion declines expe­ri­enced by other pro­duc­ers, Tazi said.

Even so, Moroccan pro­duc­ers and offi­cials remain con­cerned about the impacts of cli­mate change as the coun­try con­tin­ues to become hot­ter and drier. This will be espe­cially felt by the 40 per­cent of the country’s olive groves that are not irri­gated.

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Our main con­cerns revolve around the impact of global warm­ing and the lack of rain, which pose sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges for the olive oil indus­try,” Rekik said. The fluc­tu­a­tion in pro­duc­tion and retail prices risks reduc­ing olive oil con­sump­tion as buy­ers might turn to alter­na­tive oils.”

Bajoub added that early signs in the olive groves point to another chal­leng­ing har­vest for the North African coun­try, the sec­ond-largest olive oil pro­ducer on the con­ti­nent.

Based on what I’ve observed dur­ing my vis­its to some orchards in the Meknes region, there’s a sig­nif­i­cant impact of cli­mate change on this crop: indeed, rains from [ear­lier in the spring] gave hope, but the flow­er­ing was dis­rupted with some trees in full bloom, oth­ers just start­ing, or even not bloom­ing at all,” he said.

We can expect a decrease in pro­duc­tion once again in the 2024/25 crop year,” Bajoub added. At least in the Meknes region, I’m sure pro­duc­tion will be below aver­age.”

Despite the chal­lenges, Tazi believes that Moroccan pro­duc­ers can adapt by embrac­ing native vari­eties, invest­ing in mod­ern irri­ga­tion and fol­low­ing har­vest best prac­tices.

The trend is towards volatil­ity because the cli­mate is unpre­dictable and chang­ing through­out the entire region,” she added. Nevertheless, we remain opti­mistic.”



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