This year's Moroccan citrus campaign has begun. At the end of November, the first Clementines arrived and since last week, the Navel oranges are also ready to go. Although these Moroccan products still cover an interesting niche, the long-term future of the import is not certain, according to Krino Röben e.K., importer and citrus specialist.
Like every year, the experienced specialist will offer Moroccan Navels just in time for Christmas. "For the clementines, the harvest forecasts are satisfactory, though they are a bit smaller than usual. With the oranges we have the problem that there are hardly any producers who want to deliver Navels. Those who do, do not want to deliver any early goods, because quality is not as it should be. But we need them for the Christmas business, which is why they come at outrageous prices."
Navel as a by-product
In contrast to competing growing areas -like Spain- Navel oranges can be easily grown in Morocco. This will certainly have an advantage, according to Röben, who primarily offers citrus fruits online to private customers. "Because of the decline in cultivation, procurement becomes more difficult every year. More and more late juice oranges are being used, making Navel a by-product. That's a problem, at least for the European markets."
In general, citrus cultivation in Morocco is spread across two regions, explains Röben. Clementines are preferably bought from Berkane, while the best oranges come from Agadir. Because of his close relations with the Moroccan producers, the trader is always up to date, knowing the current trends in the local cultivation. "They are currently trying to grow a new clementine variety -the Afourer- which is genetically similar to the Nadorcott. People have been trying to place them on the market for a few years, but unfortunately it's too late in season, in February. By then, the great demand for clementines has already passed."
Grapefruits: Difficult procurement from Florida
Apart from importing Moroccan citrus fruits, the company is also currently trying to procure grapefruits from Florida (US). Demand is traditionally very high at this time of the year, but prices have exploded in this area as well, Röben says. The reason for this is the poor harvest and strong domestic demand: "Canada is also a strong buyer for the rest of the harvest. In part, there is also the disadvantageous exchange rate. Because of this, export goods end up with outrageous prices. As an alternative, we tried Mexico: The fruit from there is better than Turkish and Spanish grapefruits but not nearly as good as the products from Florida."
Sales window is getting shorter
All this combined makes Röben fear for the future of the citrus trade: Because of the current situation, the sales window -for Moroccan products in particular- on the Western European market is getting shorter and shorter. That is, only in December and January, do these fruits sell so extremely well.