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Abdellah Elyamlahi, avocado exporter: "We'll break the record next year"

End of the avocado season in Morocco, volumes almost hit an all-time record

Despite a decrease in yield recorded earlier this year, the avocado season in Morocco has recovered in fine form and ended on a positive note. Volumes almost hit an all-time record, allaying fears of the impact of the drought. But the season was also marked by difficulties, mainly in terms of prices. Abdellah Elyamlahi, CEO of Moroccan exporter Export Optimum, reflects on what he calls "an amazing year."

"The season has come to an end, except for some exporters who still have small volumes. The production at the national level has reached 40,000 tons, we came close to a historical record of Moroccan avocado production, but we will surely reach it next season. The demand was also important, especially from the Netherlands, France, Spain, the UK, and Russia. We reached a record of exports during the month of November when Moroccan production did not have much competition on the market." A few months ago, Elyamlahi announced that Moroccan production is on track to triple by 2027 to reach 100,000 tons. Today he assures, "the current season gives us every reason to still believe in this prospect."

On the downside, the season was also marked by a price mismatch. According to Elyamlahi, "Moroccan avocados were exported at average prices of 4 EUR/kg this season, while previously prices reached 5-5.5 EUR/kg, and this price drop comes despite the high demand on Moroccan avocados and a general increase in the price of fresh products. This season we have witnessed speculative behavior on the part of intermediaries that has pushed down prices, and that exporters should prevent in the future."

In terms of foreign demand for avocados, there are two customer profiles: "Class A customers, who have stable orders and buy regular jobs, under export programs with weekly fixed prices, and "hot spot" customers, whose prices are fluctuating and often higher. At Export Optimum, we are in a comfortable and exceptional position in Morocco, as the majority of our customer portfolio is comprised of the first category, which allows us to have better visibility of our operations and focus on quality. We also have a large number of customers with very high standards, such as supermarkets.

Through Export Optimum, Elmalyahi and his team are alone behind 20% of Moroccan avocado exports this year, with volumes approaching 10,000 tons. "Our volumes are increasing from one season to the next, and we expect more volumes next year. Our brand "Mavocado" is more and more recognized and notorious. At the production level, the majority of producers prefer to sell through Export Optimum because of our well-developed customer portfolio, the stability of our export programs, and our ability to sell large volumes, our attractive payment terms, and finally, our transparency.

The steady increase in Moroccan avocado volumes has allayed fears of a sudden impact of the drought on avocado production. Elmalyahi comments: "We have long said that these fears are not justified. The proof is that avocado volumes are increasing while many other crops are at a standstill. This is simply due to the fact that not all regions of Morocco are impacted in the same way; avocado cultivation is concentrated in the regions of Gherb and Lokous, which have huge groundwater reserves and do not have water stress problems. Things will only get better when the rainfall returns. Even the government's decision to suspend the avocado irrigation subsidy was made out of the blue and without consultation with producers. We continue to maintain that there is no concern about avocado volumes."

In terms of development, Elyamlahi says he wants to direct the choice of varieties in the direction of extending the avocado season in Morocco. "We want to develop a late production, especially during the month of March, when there is virtually no international competition in the avocado market. More generally, we must capitalize more on the production windows where other countries are at the end of the season. In this sense, we are studying the introduction of the variety Malama." The most produced varieties in Morocco currently are Hass, Zutano, Feurte and Bacon. 

"That said, we are also forced to follow the demand," concludes Elyamlahi. "For example, the variety Lamb Hass, which works well in the late season, is not desired by our customers in Europe. We also follow the market in terms of labels and certifications. For example, this year we obtained the SPRING (Sustainable Program for Irrigation and Groundwater Use) and COC certifications requested by our client supermarkets."

For more information:
Abdellah Elyamlahi
Export Optimum
Tel: +212678732391