Nabil Belmkaddem, BestBerry Cooperative

"One should not see Moroccan suppliers as competitors, but as an extension of the European market"

Europe remains one of the largest export markets for Moroccan soft fruit. This was explained by Nabil Belmkaddem from the North Moroccan BestBerry Cooperative at the last Global Berry Congress. "People should not see us as competitors, but as an extension of the European market."

Moroccan production has increased in recent years. "I also went to the Global Berry Congress 3 years ago to give a presentation and since then the production has grown exponentially and it's still growing. There doesn't seem to be a ceiling," explains Nabil. "Increasing competence and effective production lead to a growing market and we see that the yields are increasing every year. In addition, we were able to send fruits, such as raspberries, to Europe 3 weeks earlier than in previous years. In this respect we also have an advantageous location. The fruit can be quickly loaded onto the truck or ship and be on European shelves within a very short time This, combined with political and financial stability, increasingly distinguishes us as a reliable partner."

The energy problems in northern Europe could therefore have corresponding advantages for Moroccan producers. "We will always grow more than enough fruit, regardless of demand. Then of course there is a risk that if there is no demand, there will be no price. So it always remains to be seen how demand in Europe will develop during the season. But if and when the demand is there, we can always meet it, and at the moment things are looking good for Moroccan fruit. The situation in Northern Europe can definitely be to our advantage."

But there are also challenges for Morocco in these times. "The climatic problems have certainly affected us as well," continues Nabil. "The drought was extremely stressful. We're used to it, but the scarcity of water is a big problem. Also, other costs like energy and fertilizer are just really expensive here. The result is a 'high risk, high reward business'. If prices are extremely low, it's very risky, but there's also a lot of opportunity if prices go in the right direction." But Moroccan producers are also increasingly being forced to bear these costs, says Nabil. "We are therefore trying to reduce production costs."

Finally, the soft fruit specialist sent a message to consumers. "No matter how hard we try to deliver an optimal product, once it's in transit you're at the mercy of third parties. So it's a challenge if everything arrives in good condition on the European market. But consumers have to understand that 'blemishes' do happen. A blemish shouldn't mean giving up or throwing away a product. It's also a lot of work and it doesn't detract from the taste."

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