Moroccan tangerine export ‘melts’ due to summer heat

The smaller harvest will be obvious in the export of Moroccan citrus. The high temperatures in the months of July and August turn out to be negative for tangerines. Estimates for the export of tangerines are at 420,000 tonnes, the orange export amounts to 100,000 tonnes and the lemon export remains stuck at 9,000 tonnes, according to a report from the USDA.

The citrus sector is seen as one of the most successful sectors within agriculture. The sector fetches 350 million dollar of foreign currency in the country thanks to export, and it guarantees jobs. That hasn’t remained unnoticed. Years ago, a plan was drawn up to increase production from 1.9 million tonnes in 2008 to 2.9 million tonnes in 2018. This comes with a price tag of 9 billion dirham (1.2 billion dollar), a third of which is paid for by the government. In December last year, the North African country received 200 million dollar from the World Bank to invest in the citrus and olive sectors. Earlier that year, the Moroccan government cleared new funds to subsidise new plants. That subsidy rose form 778 dollar per hectare to 1,162 dollar per hectare.

Less export
The 2017/18 market year, however, will not go down in history as a record year, and despite available funds and the willingness to invest, harvest figures are disappointing. The cause can be found in the unusually hot summer months, resulting in a smaller harvest. The consequences are mostly noticed in the tangerine sector. Export figures for the small citrus is nearly 100,000 tonnes lower than in the previous season, with only 420,000 tonnes. The orange export decreased from 163,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes, and the lemon/limes report a loss of 4,000 tonnes, amounting to 9,000 tonnes.

The export is traditionally focused on Europe and Russia, although exporters are looking for opportunities in other markets, such as the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, exporters have mentioned payment problems with customers south of the Sahara as a limiting factor. For the tangerine export, the options on the American market are limited this season. The country closed its borders for tangerines from the Berkane region due to phytosanitary risks. The majority of the export is in hands of seven companies that work together within the Moroccan Fruit Board, which carries the Maroc Select label.

According to reports, losses between 25 and 30 per cent are mentioned in the Agadir and Berkane regions. Although nearly 50 different varieties are grown in the country, clementines are good for about half the tangerine production. Hybrids such as Nardocott (Afourer) and Nova are becoming increasingly more popular. For oranges, it’s mostly the Maroc-Late and Navel that make up the area. The growers prefer Maroc-Late because of their longer shelf life.

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