Winning Producers at World Competition Give Moroccan EVOO the 'Place It Deserves'

Morocco took home a record number of awards at this year's NYIOOC. Winners attributed their success to a "quiet revolution" in the country's olive oil sector.
Olive groves of Les Huiles Précieues. Photo courtesy of Franck Salvatori.
Jun. 1, 2020
Pablo Esparza

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With three awards at this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, Moroccan pro­duc­ers enjoyed their best per­for­mance to date at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity con­test.

Producers from the North African coun­try earned one award in 2019 and none in 2018. This year’s results have con­firmed the country’s bet on pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oils is begin­ning to pay off.

I think this is just the begin­ning of a lit­tle rev­o­lu­tion in olive oil.- Djamel Belhaouci, man­ager at Les Huiles Precieuses

We were very proud and happy. This indi­cates that we are going in the right direc­tion,” said Omar Tagnaouti, the exports and devel­op­ment man­ager at Olea, a farm­ing group with thou­sands of acres of fields in the North African coun­try.

Its Zouitina brand won a Gold Award at the 2020 NYIOOC and a Silver in 2019.

See more: Special Coverage: 2020 NYIOOC

We offer qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and enough vol­ume to be com­pet­i­tive in the inter­na­tional mar­ket, but we never neglect arti­san pro­duc­tion,” he told Olive Oil Times. “[The NYIOOC] helps us to mar­ket our brand, Zouitina.”

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Les Huiles Precieuses is a small pro­ducer whose Huile Bleue earned a Silver Award at the NYIOOC for its Picholine mono­va­ri­etal from the Atlas Mountains, not far from Marrakech.

We are really happy and a bit sur­prised,” Djamel Belhaouci, the company’s man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. We are a young com­pany and this is a really good thing for mar­ket­ing.”

Belhaouci gives all the credit of the qual­ity of his oil to Franck Salvatori, his part­ner and an olive oil expert who embarked on this project three years ago.

He is very expe­ri­enced. He came to Morocco and found that this region is per­fect to pro­duce olive oil,” he said. Our project started like that. Another friend, Jacques-Antoine Preziosi, who is a lawyer in Marrakech, also joined in. Now we are in the sec­ond year and we are very excited and sur­prised by this suc­cess.”

For us, it is very impor­tant to inter­act and com­pete with the best oils in the world,” Belhaouci added. We can do that only once in a while and it is pos­si­ble at the NYIOOC. We believe that’s the place where you must be.”

Eythrib Abderrahman is the man­ager of Harrando and Co, another small pro­ducer in the region of Frouga, also close to the city of Marrakech. His Picholine Languedoc mono­va­ri­etal won a Silver Award at the NYIOOC.

We are begin­ners and an award in such a pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion gives us sup­port and con­fi­dence to keep going,” Abderrahman told Olive Oil Times. In 2019, we sent our oil to the Salon de Paris com­pe­ti­tion and we did not get any award. After that, we rethought the way we were doing cer­tain things and tried to improve them.”

We looked for a qual­ity mill and reduced the time from har­vest­ing to press­ing the olives. This award tells us we did it right,” he added.

Harrando and Co planted its first olive trees in 2012 in a 15-hectare (37-acre) estate, focus­ing on just one vari­ety: Picholine Languedoc.

I didn’t study agron­omy, but I had the per­sonal will to change my life and to be in touch with the coun­try­side,” Abderrahman said. I met Rachid Harrando and we decided to start this project. We began lit­tle by lit­tle with a lot of will and per­sonal pas­sion.”

Each olive oil has its own fea­tures,” he added. It depends on the ter­roir and the ori­gin in which it’s pro­duced. Morocco has to get out so that it is bet­ter known and appre­ci­ated. Step by step, we want to walk that path.”

Rachid Harrando in his olive groves.

In 2019, Morocco pro­duced 145,000 tons of olive oil, up from 36,000 tons in 1991, accord­ing to the International Olive Council. The coun­try ranks now as the sixth-largest oil pro­ducer in the world.

And this steady growth in terms of quan­tity has been fol­lowed by an improve­ment in the qual­ity of Moroccan oil, accord­ing to the pro­duc­ers con­tacted by Olive Oil Times.

Certain pro­duc­ers and investors, mostly from out of the tra­di­tional farm­ers’ world, were con­scious of the need to improve qual­ity in order to be com­pet­i­tive and put Moroccan oil in the place it deserves,” Abderrahman said. You need to do some­thing spe­cific to achieve that.”

Being a Mediterranean coun­try, olive oil has been a sta­ple food in Morocco for cen­turies. Now, this tra­di­tional sec­tor is going through a quiet rev­o­lu­tion.

Morocco has had qual­ity olive oil for a long time,” Belhaouci said. The prob­lem is that tra­di­tional peo­ple, if we may put it that way, have an opin­ion about what is high-qual­ity oil which is dif­fer­ent from that of the experts. I guess that is one of the main rea­sons why it took so long for Moroccan oil to be inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized.”

I think this is just the begin­ning of a lit­tle rev­o­lu­tion in olive oil,” he added. Not only in Morocco but also in places such as Slovenia and Uruguay. In 20 years’ time, we will be able to find very good olive oil in many coun­tries in the world and Morocco will be part of that change.”


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