The Moroccan blueberry industry: emergence towards global dominance

Morocco's blueberry industry has steadily risen to international prominence, marking a journey of strategic cultivation and sustainable growth. Since the start of blueberry plantations in 2005, the country has witnessed a notable increase, with the area under blueberry cultivation increasing more than 15-fold in the last 15 years. Located at the crossroads of a privileged location and favorable environmental conditions, Morocco has become a key player in the global blueberry market.

In the early stages of 2005, a handful of Moroccan producers launched blueberry cultivation. The first decade saw modest but steady year-on-year growth, with local farmers delving into the nuances of this new berry in the main growing area of ​​Loukos Gharb in the north. However, starting in 2015, the trajectory witnessed an exponential rise, driven by the infusion of foreign capital. Experienced farmers expanded their plantations not only in Loukos Gharb but also in new growing areas such as Agadir in the central-north and Dakhla in the south.

In 2020, Morocco had achieved a monumental feat, producing 35.100 tons of blueberries, 19 times more than the 2005 yield. This meteoric rise speaks to the synergy of capital, expertise and favorable conditions that converge to create a thriving blueberry industry.

The production window extends from December to June. The latest campaigns have demonstrated stability at scale, approaching 55.000 tons sent to different markets around the world, mainly Europe.

Volume of exports of fresh products from Morocco by partner | Conventional Cultivation

 History of Morocco's fresh produce export volume | Conventional Cultivation

Source: Agronometrics.

As the 2023/24 blueberry season approaches, SunCrops Sales and Procurement Manager Germán Pérez highlights the company's proactive stance in preparing for potential challenges. Water management takes center stage, particularly crucial in arid regions like Morocco. Logistics and packaging also pose challenges, requiring meticulous coordination to maintain product freshness and quality.

«Despite the challenges of last year, we are actively preparing for a promising season. “Lessons learned from previous seasons have better prepared us for this year, aiming for more consistent production despite potential challenges,” says Perez.

“Coordinating the logistics for transporting blueberries from Agadir to Casablanca can be a complex process. We have to ensure a reliable and timely supply chain as this is crucial to maintaining the freshness and quality of the products. Finally, access to packaging materials, specifically plastic baskets and containers, is limited, making it difficult to acquire various packaging options. Importing these materials to Morocco poses significant difficulties," Perez adds.

SunCrops prioritizes the European market while actively exploring opportunities in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, despite potential climate challenges in Agadir. Preparatory efforts include strategies to manage climatic variables for stable production.

Volume of exports of fresh products from Morocco by partner | Conventional Cultivation

Storm Bernard, which hit Morocco, Spain and Portugal in October, caused significant Damage to plantations of early blueberry varieties. which will probably cause high prices in the European market during the first weeks.

Frutta Group, a company based in the United States, has entered into a collaboration with Grupo Cheers Portugal to source blueberries from Morocco for the first time this winter. Juan Eduardo Sainz, from Frutta Group, highlights the emergence of Morocco as an important global player in the production and export of fresh blueberries. «It is a purely exporting country» says Sainz. “As a result, the logistics options and facilities are very good. From Morocco, the trip to North America takes approximately 15 days to the ports of Philadelphia and Montreal and Spain is just around the corner.” Quality is expected to be high this season, with peak production in January, February and March, driven by strong demand and reduced availability from the southern hemisphere. The 15-day export duration from Morocco is a clear advantage, particularly notable in light of the delays being experienced at the Panama Canal, with ships facing wait times of up to three weeks to pass through the canal.

In the 2022/23 campaign, Moroccan berries reached 37 foreign markets. A year ago, blueberries occupied fourth place in the country's export income structure, in just six months, the category moved to 2nd position. This brought Morocco 315 million dollars in export income and gave the country the opportunity to occupy eighth place in the ranking of world suppliers of this product.

Morocco continues to conquer the British market at an accelerated pace. A record volume of Moroccan blueberries was delivered to the UK market in the 2022/23 season. Furthermore, Morocco managed to surpass one of the largest exporters of this product, Spain, in terms of shipments of blueberries to the United Kingdom. In the 2022/23 campaign (considering the period from July to June), the volume of exports of Moroccan blueberries to the United Kingdom exceeded 11.000 tons, and exports in value exceeded 80 million dollars. It should be noted that after the Brexit transition there was a change in the data submission procedures. Data prior to 2020 reflects only partial imports from Morocco, as historical records were previously consolidated in Spain, which served as the main entry point to the European Union.

United Kingdom Fresh import value per partner | Conventional Cultivation

With a growth of 800 hectares in the last campaign, the industry sets itself ambitious objectives, With the objective of reaching 6.000 hectares planted by 2030 and an annual production of more than 100.000 tons. These objectives not only underline the consolidation of the industry but also its determination to play a leading role in the international market. Stakeholders are optimistic about the upcoming season and anticipate continued growth and strengthened market presence on both regional and international fronts.

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