MOROCCO – Morocco, an essential supplier of citrus fruits to the Northern Hemisphere, faces challenges as drought affects citrus sizes.

The country plays a crucial role in providing mandarins to the U.S., with exports rising from 53 to 80 million pounds between the 2019-20 and 2023-24 seasons.

Now, Morocco ranks as the third largest exporter of fruit to the U.S., accounting for 15% of the total share.

Salix Fruit, a company specializing in exporting and importing fruit, has been working with Moroccan mandarins and oranges for four years.

Vince Biasibetti, an executive at Salix Fruit, mentioned during a recent visit to Morocco that the company explored new business opportunities and lesser-known citrus varieties to promote in the U.S. market.

Drought in Morocco has raised concerns for the industry, especially affecting mandarins and oranges, with Biasibetti noting smaller-sized fruits as a result.

Farms in Marrakech and Beni Mellal have displayed varying levels of drought impact. Since September 2023, the country has experienced a 70% drop in rainfall compared to the average, marking the sixth consecutive year of severe drought.

Despite these challenges, Biasibetti assured that the drought should not drastically impact the fruits’ cosmetic or internal quality.

However, producers and exporters are seeking alternative water sources to cope with the prolonged dry spell. While the current production remains stable, the future remains uncertain due to the ongoing water crisis.

Moroccan citrus fruits reach the U.S. market via the East Coast, with the latest direct shipping line established in Philadelphia, a primary fruit hub. Biasibetti praised the route for facilitating smooth and consistent shipments, with no significant logistical problems reported.

Salix Fruit adheres to the FDA’s Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) to ensure foreign suppliers meet U.S. safety standards.

Biasibetti emphasized that monitoring the program’s implementation is vital, as it guarantees the food safety required by the FDA and compliance with public health protection standards.

Biasibetti stressed the importance of visiting production areas before each import season to optimize preparation. Salix Fruit plans to travel to Argentina as well to assess lemon plantations there.

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