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
By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 6, 2022 15:45 UTC
1415
Olive plantation and archaeological ruins near Meknes, Morocco

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.

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.

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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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