MOROCCO – Moroccan rosemary and other aromatic and medicinal plants producers are facing a climate change related challenge this year as persistent drought impedes the production of the herbs and spices.

The situation has forced many growers and exporters to shift to other crops, according to Mehdi Benchekroun, owner of Domaines Mehdi Benchekroun.

“Despite recent rains, many regions haven’t received any rainfall,” Benchekroun notes. The dry conditions have severely affected plant growth in the Marrakech and Oriental regions.

Benchekroun explains that the Moroccan model for aromatic and medicinal plant production heavily relies on wild-grown parcels in forests or mountains, accounting for around one million hectares, while cultivated production is only about 10,000 hectares.

The lack of water increases soil heat and salinity, causing plants to enter a state of hibernation and stopping them from being harvested.

The drought has also delayed the adjudication of harvests by local authorities. Benchekroun says, “There may not even be parcels adjudicated in several regions of the country, as we need to allow the land to regenerate.”

This scarcity of supply has led to increased demand from importers, particularly for rosemary, shifting production to cultivation and moving resources across different regions.

Despite these challenges, the Ouarzazate region offers an advantage due to its elevation and specific climate conditions.

Benchekroun explains, “Drought affects us too, but we remain resilient with certain crops like plants.” The area benefits from 10 hours of sunlight a day, 15% humidity, and sandy soil, which help preserve cultivated rosemary through drip irrigation. These conditions result in high levels of carnosic and rosmarinic acids, key indicators of good quality.

Benchekroun’s farm adopts a sustainable approach with organic production, solar energy, and responsible irrigation.

The farm employs a local workforce, particularly women, contributing to rural development. This model helps manage the challenging climate and provides a diverse range of products, including mint, verbena, and mugworts.

“The end use of these plants varies depending on the variety grown,” Benchekroun explains. “For example, certain rosemary varieties suit fresh cooking, while others are better for distillation or botanical extraction.”

Thanks to his farm’s extensive export experience, Benchekroun can offer a sourcing service for varieties his farm does not produce.

The persistent drought in Morocco has created obstacles for farmers like Benchekroun, affecting the supply of aromatic and medicinal plants. Yet, the innovative approaches on his farm offer hope for navigating these challenges and sustaining production despite the harsh conditions.

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