Thanks to its favourable location, Morocco is both a competitor for the Spanish citrus and the citrus from the Southern Hemisphere. To take advantage of this long season, you have to import from the right regions. Jan van der Voort of Anaco Greeve talks about the unique position of the North African country.
The Moroccan citrus season starts in mid October. “Our season lasts until the end of August, but this isn’t the case for everyone,” says Jan. “This depends which region you import from.” Anaco Greeve imports the citrus from the regions Agadir, Béni Mellal and Berkane. Agadir can be found in the south of Morocco and borders the Atlantic Ocean. The citrus comes from this region first. Berkane is in the far north and borders the Mediterranean. Finally, Béni Mellal is roughly between the two other regions inland. Béni Mellal is mainly late in the season compared to the other regions. We start the season in Agadir.”
No import quota
The mandarins are the first fruit to become available. The start is in October, the season of the clementines lasts until January. Then the Nour and finally the Nadercott follow. “There have been a lot of developments in this in recent years,” says Jan. “The season of the Nadercott starts in January and lasts until April.” Meanwhile the oranges start in December. The Navels are the first, followed by the Salustianas in January. The Maroc Late end the season from March until the end of August. Thanks to this long season Morocco has a large overlap with both the Spanish season and the import season on the Southern Hemisphere. “We want this,” says Jan. “You have an advantage compared to the citrus on the southern hemisphere. We also have ripe and tasty fruit. The flavour is at its highest level at that time, especially in the months of June, July and August.”
Whereas the EU has set an import quota for Moroccan tomatoes for example, to regulate the market and protect the Spanish product from competition, this isn’t the case for citrus. “Agreements have been made, but you would have to be taking the cake to come into contact with them,” explains Jan. It is mainly periods where there is a lot of competition between Spain and Morocco. Spain is fully on the market in November and December and there is little space for the Moroccan citrus. When the flavour of the Spanish citrus starts to decline slightly in January, the interest in the Moroccan products increases. “Morocco has an advantage compared to Spain from January to April because the flavour is better then,” says Jan.
No Russia boycott
The season is like the Spanish season in many respects. The sizes will also be smaller in Morocco this year. “I hope the tide will turn,” says Jan. Towards the end of November it started to rain. He hopes that this rain will result in larger sizes later in the season. “It doesn’t have negative consequences for the citrus at the moment, but if it falls in a couple of weeks we will have a problem,” Jan explains in week 47. “Then the fruit is too ripe and it will cause problems.”
Since Russia closed its borders to European fruit and vegetables, Moroccan exports moved into the vacuum that was created. A few years ago the Moroccans were exporting so much citrus to Russia that the market collapsed. To prevent this the Moroccan authorities set a quota. “This is to protect their own market in Morocco,” says Jan. “The whole of Morocco is trying to limit the export, which makes the market better.” This has no direct effect on the volume for the export to Europe. The Moroccans have lost market share in Europe since the boycott. After the boycott there was a lot of European citrus available within the EU, which pushed out the Moroccan import. “I see that they want to export more to get that market share back but it isn’t easy.”
There is also more attention on the Moroccan citrus from the European retailers. “We see that there is more interest than two years ago and that supermarkets have more Maroc on their shelves. This is because the flavour is good and the Spanish product is slightly less prominent on the shelves.” In the past Morocco had a negative image and the traders were labelled unreliable. That tide seems to be turning. “They are coming back from this. Everyone sees that the supermarkets are needed so the attitude is changing at both ends.”
Jan van der Voort