The tension between Morocco and Spain has topped off a year of great complexity in which the weather, the health crisis, or the increase in costs, among other challenges, have forced exporting companies to show their resilience.
One of them is Agroatlas and its Moroccan subsidiary Nature Growers, which specialized in the production of green beans in Morocco, which supplies the European market all year round from its farms in Agadir and Kenitra. "The green bean season has been extremely difficult, and not only because of the problems caused by the weather between January and March, which affected Morocco just as they did Spain. The cost of plastic and cardboard has skyrocketed. To be precise, the price of plastic has increased by 80%, and for a company that has greenhouses, which are made of plastic, and which delivers more than one and a half million bags of beans a week, this is a considerable increase," says Richi Menoyo, commercial director of the company.
"In Morocco, we grow on approximately 600 hectares, and this year we will produce about 15 million kilos of beans," says Richi. "Taking also into account the rest of vegetables we grow in the country, including peppers and, more specifically, hot peppers, which we recently added to our range, we will reach a total production of 19 million kilos."
Such a volume of activity has a very positive impact on labor in the Moroccan regions where Agroatlas operates, generating prosperity and promoting equality in those communities. "We have an average of 2,500 people working at our facilities. This figure increases to 3,000 at peak times of the season. Furthermore, women play a very important role at Agroatlas. From the field and warehouse level to the management level, 80% of our staff are women," says the commercial director.
First Mexican mangoes arrive in Europe
However, Agroatlas doesn't only have production operations in Morocco. The company has made a strong commitment to subtropical fruit, embarking on an ambitious project to expand its mango and avocado production in Mexico, and the first mangoes of the season have just arrived on the European market.
"Our first air-shipped mangoes have recently arrived in the Netherlands, while the mangoes transported by sea will start shipping next week. They are arriving at an ideal time because there has been a production gap in the mango export season, which has allowed us to start the campaign from a position of strength," says Richi Menoyo. "Mexican fruit has always been exported more to the United States, so it is not very well known in the European market, but I am sure that it is going to give people a lot to talk about. For now, the mangoes have very good color, good flavor, the right Brix degrees, and very high quality."
"We are going to spend all summer focused on our air and sea-shipped mangoes for our customers in Spain and Europe. From September, we will start with the avocados, and we are really looking forward to that. We have a large volume sold already this year and we are going to see an important quantitative leap. We are going to see a five-fold increase compared to what we did last year, producing and marketing between 5 and 6 million kilos of mangoes and Mexican avocados."
"Spain is an economic engine for Morocco and vice versa, breaking relations would be like shooting ourselves in the foot"
Morocco and Spain are currently immersed in a diplomatic crisis that is having repercussions in common sectors of both countries which have nothing to do with the reason for the conflict: Western Sahara.
"The current situation is not a good thing for the companies working in both countries. We are going through some difficult times, but I am sure they will be overcome, especially because this is not the first time it has happened and it won't be the last. The most important thing for everyone to remember is that the brotherhood and respect that has traditionally existed between the two countries is above any current political dispute," says Richi Menoyo.
"We must aim to understand each other because we are part of the EU, and Morocco is a preferential partner, not only in economic matters but also in social matters. And we must not forget that, for several years, Spain has been Morocco's number one supplier and largest customer. It is also our main trading partner in Africa, and that should come above any dispute or political problem that may have arisen. Spain is an economic engine for Morocco and vice versa, and breaking off relations between the two countries would be like shooting ourselves in the foot."
"In the country, people just want to live in peace, live better, and have more prosperity. We also want COVID to pass so we can return to normality. We don't want a political dispute; that should be for politicians to deal with. We are neighbors, and in the end, there are more things uniting us than making us different," says Richi.