Moroccan Producers Anticipate Near-Record Harvest

Olive oil production is expected to reach 200,000 tons for the second time in Morocco. Recently-planted olive trees and improved irrigation are partially responsible.

Olive plantation and archaeological ruins near Meknes, Morocco
Apr. 6, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Olive plantation and archaeological ruins near Meknes, Morocco

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Producers in Morocco expect a record-tying har­vest of 200,000 tons of olive oil in the 2021/22 crop year.

According to pro­vi­sional data from the International Olive Council (IOC), such a result would vastly exceed the 160,000 tons of the 2020/21 crop year and the 145,000 tons of 2019/2020.

This year, we have suf­fered a lot of heat until well into the har­vest, which made us pro­long the irri­ga­tion period.- Omar Tagnaouti Moummani, export and devel­op­ment direc­tor, Olea

According to the Fédération Interprofessionnelle Marocaine de l’Olive (Interprolive), the 21 per­cent growth expected in the cur­rent crop year over the pre­vi­ous one is due to the con­stant expan­sion of olive farm­ing bear­ing fruit.

Interprolive esti­mates that the almost 800,000 hectares of olive groves in 2010 have soared to 1.2 mil­lion hectares in the cur­rent sea­son.

See Also:2021 Harvest Updates

The olive oil pro­duc­tion chain has ben­e­fited from rel­e­vant priv­i­leges within the Maroc Vert strat­egy,” Interprolive direc­tor Mohamed Khannoufi wrote in a doc­u­ment reported by L’Opinion.

Maroc Vert, or Green Morocco, is a wide-rang­ing multi-year agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment plan enacted by the gov­ern­ment. Supporting agri­cul­tural activ­i­ties, such as olive grow­ing, was among its goals.

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According to Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants, the pace of olive farm­ing devel­op­ment is quickly lead­ing the coun­try to be one of the most rel­e­vant global pro­duc­ers.

IOC data show how Morocco’s pro­duc­tion has steadily increased over the last two decades. It rose from an aver­age of 75,000 tons between 2001 and 2010 to 133,000 tons the fol­low­ing decade. In the last four crop years, Morocco has pro­duced an aver­age of 176,000 tons per annum.

Morocco is quickly becom­ing one of the largest olive oil pro­duc­ers out­side of the European Union, join­ing the likes of Turkey and Tunisia, which pro­duced 227,500 tons and 240,000 tons, respec­tively, accord­ing to the IOC.

Khannoufi said these fig­ures are a con­se­quence of the rel­e­vant devel­op­ment of sur­face, pro­duc­tion strate­gies and trans­for­ma­tion facil­i­ties. As a result, the total yearly fruit pro­duc­tion ranges between 1.4 mil­lion and 1.9 mil­lion tons.”

Today, the sec­tor gen­er­ates 51 mil­lion work-days a year, rep­re­sent­ing 13 per­cent of the whole agri­cul­tural labor hours in the coun­try. The IOC esti­mates that once the cur­rent olive farm expan­sion has reached its goals, it could sup­port 300,000 employ­ees in the sec­tor.

Among the chal­lenges for local olive farm­ers is the country’s hot and arid cli­mate, which neces­si­tated a sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion of irri­ga­tion ser­vices and tech­nolo­gies.

Recently, the Sotradema-Capep con­sor­tium announced a new agree­ment with a Spanish hydro-tech­nol­ogy sup­plier to deploy new advanced irri­ga­tion sys­tems in Aoulouz, in the Taroudant province of south­ern Morocco.

According to tech­ni­cians involved in the project, the new facil­i­ties will allow olive and almond groves to reduce their water usage by 50 per­cent.

Soussa-Massa, where Taroudant is located, is Morocco’s lead­ing olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, account­ing for about one-third of the country’s annual pro­duc­tion.

The Moroccan gov­ern­ment has also started sim­i­lar projects in other regions. Among them are Béni Mellal-Khénifra and Grand Casablanca-Settat, which have been affected by the country’s per­sis­tent drought. Many of those projects are financed or co-financed by the World Bank.

According to Ministry of Agriculture data, the grow­ing rel­e­vance of the olive sec­tor to the local econ­omy is being fueled by the coun­try’s sig­nif­i­cant table olive and olive oil exports, which are expected to reach 95,000 tons and 28,000 tons, respec­tively, in the cur­rent crop year.

This suc­cess is also due to the olive oil qual­ity project enacted in the coun­try with the help of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Since 2015, the two inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions have worked with Interprolive to improve the over­all qual­ity of the entire pro­duc­tion chain.

See Also:North Africans Ate Olives 100,000 Years Ago, Evidence Suggests

With the sup­port of the European Union, local and inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions con­ducted train­ing ses­sions and olive oil aware­ness cam­paigns in the coun­try’s pro­duc­ing regions, with thou­sands of farm­ers and millers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the courses and events.

Thanks to hands-on train­ing, olive farm­ers have learned good man­age­ment prac­tices, such as prun­ing tech­niques that can help pre­vent pests and dis­ease and reduce extreme yearly yield vari­a­tions,” the FAO said.

Processors and millers learned about how the lat­est extrac­tion tech­nolo­gies can pro­duce pre­mium oils,” the orga­ni­za­tion added. Each par­tic­i­pant received a check­list of best prac­tices along with a book­let on how extra vir­gin olive oil should and shouldn’t taste and what can go wrong in the pro­duc­tion process to cause defects.”

According to the FAO, fos­ter­ing an olive oil cul­ture in the coun­try still has a long way to go. For exam­ple, only four per­cent of the more than 1,200 con­sumers who took part in a sur­vey knew the dif­fer­ence between extra vir­gin olive oil and non-vir­gin olive oils.

In Morocco and else­where around the Mediterranean, many con­sumers have got­ten used to highly fer­mented and oxi­dized olive oils whose orig­i­nal, nat­ural char­ac­ter­is­tics have degraded,” Khannoufi said.

There is work to be done to change con­sumers’ per­cep­tion of what con­sti­tutes a good olive oil and pro­vide them with clearer, more infor­ma­tive and, above all, trust­wor­thy labels,” he added.

However, Omar Tagnaouti Moummani, the export and devel­op­ment direc­tor of Olea, told Olive Times how the pop­u­lar­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil is grow­ing.

As in the entire Mediterranean basin, olive oil is an ancient and essen­tial ingre­di­ent for the Moroccan diet,” he said. The use is for both raw food and cook­ing, being present in the kitchens of all homes and restau­rants.”

Regarding the health prop­er­ties, there is a pro­mo­tion in the media, although, as a Muslim coun­try, we believe in the ben­e­fits of the olive oil, due to the fact that olives and olive oil are men­tioned sev­eral times in the Holy Quran,” he added.

Tagnaouti Moummani also empha­sized how rel­e­vant olive oil’s local ori­gins are to pro­mot­ing its con­sump­tion in Morocco.

One of our goals is to work to pro­mote local vari­eties, includ­ing our beloved Beldi, which pro­duces an intense, round and bal­anced fruity oil, as well as one of the best table olives in the world,” he said.

Beldi is an olive vari­ety char­ac­ter­ized by mod­est but con­stant yields with a higher-than-aver­age per­cent­age of olive oil in the dru­pes. The vari­ety is also very resilient to com­mon pathogens, can with­stand intense cold and thrives in highly-saline soil.

In gen­eral, we can say that we have had an aver­age har­vest in terms of quan­tity, with a very good qual­ity,” said Tagnaouti Moummani when describ­ing the cur­rent sea­son.

This year, we have suf­fered a lot of heat until well into the har­vest, which made us pro­long the irri­ga­tion period,” he con­cluded. We try to adapt as best as pos­si­ble to the changes, con­trol­ling both fer­ti­ga­tion and prun­ing.”



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