Morocco's Olive Harvest Expected to Rebound, Despite Headwinds

Despite a hot and dry summer, recent rain has improved conditions, with more expected in the coming weeks. Officials expect production to improve compared to last year.

Fez, Morocco
By Daniel Dawson
Sep. 25, 2023 14:15 UTC
Fez, Morocco

High tem­per­a­tures, an endur­ing drought, and the his­toric earth­quake have plagued Moroccan olive groves just months before the 2023/24 crop year is under­way.

We expect pro­duc­tion to be higher than it was last year, which was cat­a­strophic.- Rachid Benali, pres­i­dent of the Moroccan Interprofessional Olive Federation

Despite the sec­tor’s sig­nif­i­cant head­winds, offi­cials remain opti­mistic that this year’s har­vest will still improve last year’s yield of 156,000 tons, sig­nif­i­cantly below the 200,000 tons pro­duced in 2021/22 and 8 per­cent below the five-year aver­age.

We expect pro­duc­tion to be higher than it was last year, which was cat­a­strophic,” Rachid Benali, pres­i­dent of the Moroccan Interprofessional Olive Federation, told local media.

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

However, he added that the final yields largely depend on how much rain falls in the next two months.

According to Morocco’s agri­cul­ture min­istry, the coun­try received more rain in the 2022/23 hydro­log­i­cal year than in the pre­vi­ous one, 22 per­cent more, but total pre­cip­i­ta­tion was still 32 per­cent below the norm.

Recently, rain has fallen across the north of the coun­try, includ­ing in sev­eral promi­nent olive-grow­ing regions, and more rain is expected in the com­ing weeks.

While rain will help with oil accu­mu­la­tion in the coun­try’s 750,000 hectares of rain­fed groves, Benali said sig­nif­i­cant dam­age was done dur­ing the flow­er­ing period in April.


Between 60 and 70 per­cent of the olive trees suf­fered from scorch­ing spring­time tem­per­a­tures. The olive flow­ers burned because of this cli­matic phe­nom­e­non, which is wide­spread,” he said.

The unusu­ally hot spring was fol­lowed by a scorch­ing sum­mer and high winds, known as the Chergui, which caused fur­ther dam­age to some of the country’s olive trees.

This phe­nom­e­non was par­tic­u­larly acute in the cen­tral region of El Kelâa des Sraghna, with some local offi­cials esti­mat­ing that pro­duc­tion could fall by 80 per­cent com­pared to last year due to exten­sive dam­age from what and wind.

In the east­ern regions of Taza, Guercif and Outat El Haj, home to 186,000 hectares of olive groves, pro­duc­tion is expected to con­tinue upward despite some farm­ers report­ing sig­nif­i­cant losses after hail­storms in early September.

However, in the Fez-Meknes region of north­east­ern Morocco, home to one-third of the country’s olive groves, agri­cul­ture offi­cial Mostapha Mrhari told local media that irri­gated olive trees did not suf­fer sig­nif­i­cant dam­age.

In the moun­tain­ous region of Al Haouz, located at the epi­cen­ter of the 6.8 mag­ni­tude earth­quake in September that killed about 3,000 peo­ple, farm­ers are still work­ing to clear rub­ble and deter­mine the extent of the dam­age.

The region has an esti­mated 124,200 hectares of olive groves, about 10 per­cent of the country’s total. According to local media reports, high-den­sity groves located at the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains were largely unharmed.

Farther up in the moun­tains, tra­di­tional groves owned by small-scale pro­duc­ers were more exten­sively dam­aged.

It was the moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties, liv­ing in tra­di­tional clay houses, who were most affected,” one pro­ducer told local media. These com­mu­ni­ties prac­tice sub­sis­tence agri­cul­ture based on arbori­cul­ture, such as fruits and olives, and the pro­duc­tion of herbs, such as saf­fron, for self-con­sump­tion or in small quan­ti­ties sold on the local mar­ket.”

Farther south in the Souss-Massa region, located just below the earthquake’s epi­cen­ter, pro­duc­tion was also expected to rebound. While the area avoided the worst of the quake, tremors were still felt and caused dam­age to infra­struc­ture. Minimal dam­age to olive trees was reported.

Off the back of the year-long drought, offi­cials nation­wide empha­size the need to invest in olive groves. In May, the gov­ern­ment pro­vided the Moroccan Interprofessional Olive Federation with 16.9 bil­lion dirhams (€1.54 bil­lion) to invest in irri­ga­tion.

According to offi­cials, 37.5 per­cent of the country’s olive groves are irri­gated, a total of 450,000 hectares. Still, these groves are respon­si­ble for between 50 and 60 per­cent of total pro­duc­tion.

Irrigating the rest of the country’s groves would sig­nif­i­cantly increase pro­duc­tion, which offi­cials believe will improve Morocco’s inter­na­tional trade bal­ance and lower per­sis­tently high domes­tic prices.

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