Despite Drop in Production and Exports, Moroccan Producers Remain Optimistic

Moroccan olive oil production is expected to exceed that of Tunisia, Turkey and Portugal.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Oct. 15, 2020 10:43 UTC

Morocco is on pace to be the fifth largest pro­ducer of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year, accord­ing to data pub­lished by Juan Vilar Strategic Consultants.

The North African coun­try is expected to pro­duce 140,000 tons of olive oil in the cur­rent crop year, a slight decline com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year and 60,000 fewer tons than the record-break­ing har­vest in 2018/19.

I think the cur­rent strat­egy of focus­ing on two major mar­kets – the U.S. and E.U. – with our cur­rent pro­duc­tion is the right first step.- Ali Belaj , pro­ducer and som­me­lier

In spite of the con­sec­u­tive years of decline, olive oil pro­duc­tion in Morocco con­tin­ues to trend upward, mostly due to a gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive to plant more olive trees.

However, Noureddine Ouazzani, the head of the pro­ducer asso­ci­a­tion, Agro-Pôle Olivier Meknès, warned that plenty of chal­lenges still lie ahead for Moroccan olive farm­ers.

See Also:2020 Harvest Updates

Ouazzani told the local news agency Agrimaroc that Covid-19 con­tain­ment mea­sures will bring over­all oper­at­ing costs up since they dic­tate how many work­ers may be present at one time and con­trol their move­ment across regions.

In a sep­a­rate inter­view with La Vie Eco, Ouazzani said work­ers would nor­mally com­mute to the groves in crowded trans­port trucks, but as a result of the virus, trans­porta­tion costs would likely dou­ble or triple.

He also empha­sized how increas­ing costs for pro­duc­ers are also due to the low level of mechan­i­cal inno­va­tion in the fields and mills.

Over the last dozen years, the Moroccan gov­ern­ment has focused on pro­mot­ing the olive oil and table olive pro­duc­tion sec­tors. Since 2008, olive pro­duc­tion has risen from 662,000 tons to 1.56 mil­lion tons, in 2018.

The num­ber of olive groves in the coun­try has also grown sub­stan­tially and is set to reach three mil­lion acres (1.2 mil­lion hectares) in 2030.

Along with increas­ing pro­duc­tion, another prong of the Green Morocco Project – a strat­egy meant to boost the coun­try’s entire agri­cul­tural sec­tor – is the pro­mo­tion of Moroccan exports.

Currently, Morocco exports about two bil­lion dirham ($218 mil­lion) worth of olive oil and table olives each year.

In an aver­age year, roughly one-third of these exports are shipped north across the Mediterranean to ports in Italy and Spain.

However, exports to the 27-mem­ber trad­ing bloc have fallen by 64 per­cent com­pared with the 2018/19 crop year and 40 per­cent com­pared with the rolling five year aver­age, accord­ing to data pub­lished by the European Commission.

The com­bi­na­tion of a lower-than-expected har­vest in 2019, the Covid-19 pan­demic and a bumper crop in Tunisia have all been blamed for dimin­ish­ing exports to Europe, which is the largest sin­gle des­ti­na­tion for Moroccan olive oil.

However, Ali Belaj, a Moroccan olive oil pro­ducer and som­me­lier, told Olive Oil Times that Moroccan olive oils remain in high demand in Europe and he expects these exports to bounce back.

I would not say that exports to the E.U. were directly affected by an increase in Tunisian pro­duc­tion,” he said. Tunisia has olive oil that is fan­tas­tic, that said Morocco’s foot­print in the E.U. is very sig­nif­i­cant with a long his­tory.”

His belief is shared by the rest of the Moroccan gov­ern­ment, which has received 11.6 bil­lion dirham ($1.26 bil­lion) of pub­lic and pri­vate invest­ment from the E.U. to bol­ster its pro­duc­tion.

Away from the E.U., Belaj said that Moroccan pro­duc­ers are increas­ingly con­cen­trat­ing on the North American mar­ket, with a recently-launched gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive to pro­mote Moroccan olive oil in the United States.

I think the cur­rent strat­egy of focus­ing on two major mar­kets – the U.S. and E.U. – with our cur­rent pro­duc­tion is the right first step,” he said. However, Asia is another big poten­tial mar­ket, as their con­sumers are start­ing to change their habits and use more olive oil, but all in due time.”


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