MOROCCO – Red berry production in Morocco is expected to show resilience amidst the recent critical shift in the industry, influenced by both environmental and commercial factors.

The new soft fruit season in Morocco, which typically begins in September or early December depending on weather conditions, and extends through to April or May, has started off on an unfavorable note owing to the current deviation in seasonal and industrial markets.

According to Nabil Babache, an exporter from a Larache-based company, Rika, the industry is yet to recover from the industrial challenges of low prices and reduced yield it faced in the previous year meaning very few farmers will be inclined to cultivate berries this season.

“The aftermath of these challenges is evident in the current season’s agricultural landscape, as the cultivated area for strawberries and raspberries in Morocco is projected to be smaller than last year,” observed Nabil.

The Moroccan berry industry has made commendable progress over the years, with raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry taking the lead; all of which, thrive on favorable pedoclimatic and water conditions.

Nabil asserts that, weather patterns, which he describes as ‘the unsung heroes or culprits in agriculture’, are major determinants of the current shift.

He, however, assures farmers that while the southern Moroccan region faced its set of challenges, the recent precipitation from Kenitra to Larache will positively impact the red berry yield, bringing forth significant improvement in the sector.

Market-driven factors, such as pricing, are among the elements affecting the productivity of this new season.

However, Nabil believes that the reduced yield will be compensated by higher prices due to increased demand.

“The reduction in cultivated area coincides with a surge in demand, hinting at a potential upward pressure on prices,” Nabil hopes.

He believes that all eyes will be on market dynamics and how they’ll shape the trajectory of the season as the industry gears up for the first strawberry harvest around mid-September.

To further illustrate his point, Nabil did a breakdown of the export trend of raspberries in the country where prices went from $4.42 per kg in 2016 to a peak of $6.93 per kg in 2018, and then fell to $6.60 per kg in the previous season – these prices exclude packaging, conditioning, or transportation costs.

Given this price development, the projected price for 2023-2024 is $6.76 per kg, which provides a favorable market outlook.

Nabil further expresses his optimism that this new season will see most farmers shifting to blueberry farming, given its longer plant cycle and consistent market demand.

Geopolitical tensions, trade restrictions, and global economic unrest, such as the current strife in Russia, a key market for Moroccan berries, further reduce the demand for fresh produce.

In Nabil’s view, Rika and other prominent soft fruit exporters will be prepared to handle the industrial and seasonal fluctuations of the upcoming season by implementing innovative practices and adaptable strategies.

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