Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

Successful yet difficult blueberry season in Morocco

The Moroccan blueberry season is drawing to its end, in 2 to 3 weeks. A few producers with a steady stream are continuing to export. Amine Bennani, President of the Moroccan Association of Soft Fruit Producers, gives a positive assessment, but not without difficulties and oddities.

Higher volumes than last season
Bennani says: "Volumes have increased considerably over last season. Pending the centralization of data at the end of the campaign, I can confidently report a double-digit increase in exports. However, last season's volumes were exceptionally low, and this season only represents a return to normal. This increase is essentially due to expanded acreage and high yields of older varieties, as we have not yet reached our production potential due to the adverse climate."

Prejudicial climate
"The season was marked by several climatic accidents which caused heavy losses," explains Bennani. "We had two episodes of strong winds in the Larache/Moulay Bousselhem region. In the Agadir region, the chergui (dry, hot wind) caused losses in August. Above all, the climate caused a grouping of volumes and less regularity during the season, so we saw large bunches in April in the north of the country, thus a peak of the harvest."

The Spanish alert
In March, just before the harvest peak, a Spanish notification via the RASSF system alerted to the detection of hepatitis A in a shipment of Moroccan strawberries. The accusation was immediately denied by the Moroccan Association of Soft Fruit Producers. This incident disrupted the Moroccan blueberry campaign, says Bennani. "This incident was strongly amplified by the Spanish media. It did not influence our customers, who continued to maintain solid demand. It did, however, affect the Moroccan food safety authorities, who imposed severe export procedures on soft fruits, including blueberries. This prompted one-shot exporters to withdraw from the market. Growers with a steady flow of production and several shipments a week fared better under the new procedures and were in business until the end of the campaign."

Odd prices
The increase in volumes naturally translated into lower prices than the previous season, but price fluctuations were odd, explains Bennani: "There was no consistency. We started the season in January with good prices, around 80 MAD per kilo, due to the El NiƱo weather phenomenon which impacted competition in Latin America. In March, prices returned to normal levels. The particularity of this season was the very good prices for large sizes, especially 18+, which had never been seen before. To give an overall picture for the season, the weighted average price was around 40 MAD."

Labor shortage
Bennani: "The April harvest peak in the Larache/Moulay Bousselhem axis, Morocco's blueberry stronghold, coincided with the month of Ramadan and the Eid celebrations, as well as the harvesting of other crops in the region. There was a severe shortage of labor. This led not only to higher labor costs but also to delays and the loss of fruit freshness. Large volumes no longer met the criteria for the fresh segment and had to be redirected to frozen, sold at a much lower price of 10dh per kilo".

According to Bennani, the main destination for Moroccan blueberries this season was, as usual, the UK, followed by Europe. Russia was a premium market, where buyers were willing to pay more for sizes 18+, a novelty of the season. The growers' representative adds: "We're continuing to develop the Middle East market. Demand from Canada picks up with the end of the season, and this is another market we're developing.

As for Asia, "Singapore and Hong Kong showed good demand at the start of the season. Negotiations are still underway with China. We held a visit there this year and are waiting to hear back from the Chinese government, which we hope to see next season. "

For more information:
Bennani Amine
Moroccan Association of Soft Fruit Producers
Tel: +212661243424
Email: [email protected]