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Watermelon shortage: Moroccan company seeks solutions in Italy

Water scarcity, production restrictions, and pests are just some of the factors affecting the watermelon season in Morocco. For some weeks now, the season has been at a standstill. Oval watermelons, especially large sizes, virtually disappeared from the local and export markets, and obvious quality problems were widespread.

Said Aghzou, owner and general manager of the growing company Valyour, says: "The season began with a significant reduction in acreage. The Ministry of the Interior has recommended reducing the area devoted to growing red watermelon from 5,000 hectares to around 2,000 hectares. This measure is aimed at preserving water resources and adapting agriculture to the new climatic constraints."

Growers then had to contend with pests that rendered the watermelons unfit for consumption. Said describes, "The Taroudante region, in particular, has had major problems with watermelon quality, mainly due to aphid infestation. This situation has led to a significant drop in harvests, directly affecting orders received from many of our customers, both old and new. The lack of available quantities posed a major challenge for us."

The watermelon harvest in Morocco alternates between regions, from south to north, as the season progresses. Some southern regions, such as Tata, have been banned from planting. The Zagora region began the season with below-normal volumes. Then quality problems affected the Taroudante and Marrakech regions, starting the watermelon shortage. Limited quantities then came from regions such as Fès, while the main awaited harvest is expected from the Gharb (north Atlantic coast), pending the outcome in terms of quality over the next few days.

Aghzou says, "A large part of our harvest is based in the Gharb regions (Larache, Moulay Bouselham, and Laaouamra), as well as Meknes and Berkane. To secure our customer contracts and compensate for losses in the Taroudante and Marrakech regions, we have purchased watermelon crops in the Gharb region for up to 140,000.00 MAD per hectare. This strategy is enabling us to retain customer loyalty and maintain our market position despite the current difficulties."

The difficulties encountered so far, however, are likely to have an impact on the 2024 campaign as a whole. While trying to save his position this season, Aghzou says he is looking ahead to next season. "We have to face these new challenges with determination and innovation. In order to combat aphids next season, our team travelled to Italy last May, to consult Italian growers and explore effective ways of combating these pests."

The grower continues, "The visit to Italy proved to be very fruitful. We had the opportunity to talk to experienced Italian growers who shared with us their advanced methods of combating aphids. These discussions enabled us to acquire innovative techniques that we intend to implement as of next season to improve the quality of our harvests and minimize losses due to infestations. We are confident that these new practices will have a significant positive impact on our future production. A second visit is scheduled for July to validate the results of these methods on the Italian campaign."

As for the not-lesser problem of drought, Valyour is looking for solutions in the Netherlands. Aghzou says, "Our research and development team continues to look for innovative solutions to adjust water consumption in watermelon cultivation. By studying the Dutch success in tomato production, where they have achieved a consumption of 5L/kg of tomato, we hope to apply similar methods to optimize water use and improve our watermelon production."

For more information:
Said Aghzou
Tel: +212661552683
Email: [email protected]