MOROCCO – Onion producers in Morocco demand the resumption of onion exports to West Africa eight months after a ban was issued to avoid a surge in prices on the local markets.

The country’s Shereef Kingdom issued the restriction in February 2023 barring the export of onions and other fresh produce including tomatoes and potatoes.

Prior to the ban, Morocco had increased its onion exports in the nine months from June 2022 to February 2023, according to a report by Fresh Plaza.

During the period, Morocco exported over 65,000 tons of onions, 5,000 more than the same period in the 2021-2022 campaign.

The report further revealed that the country’s onion exports had increased six-fold over the past five years making it the third largest vegetable export after tomatoes and bell peppers.

The continual export resulted in soaring prices and limited supplies, thus, forcing the government to halt more shipments hence countering the surge in prices of the goods on the domestic market.

 At the time, the price of red onion per kilogram was fast rising ranging above 15 dirhams (USD 1.63).

Currently, onions intended for the national market are sold by farmers between 2 and 2.5 DH (USD 0.20 and 0.24) per kilo.

Those reserved for export are purchased by sub-Saharan African countries for between 4 and 5 DH (USD 0.39 and 0.49) per kilo, almost more than double.

It is therefore not surprising that onion producers are calling for the resumption of exports suspended since February 2023.

According to Abdennabi Zirari, head of the Association of Onion Producers of El Hajeb and Boufakrane, a resumption of shipments of the bulb should allow producers to improve their income which has declined considerably over the past 8 months.

“Currently, we have 500,000 tonnes of onions to sell. We hope to at least start with the export of a small quantity of 30,000 tonnes, to allow producers to breathe financially,” adds Mr. Zirari.

Also speaking on the subject, Rachid Benali, president of the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture and Rural Development (COMADER) pointed out that the risk of a further increase in commodity prices on the market is high with the relaunch of exports.

“Today, a kilogram of onion is bought from the farmer at 2.5 dirhams ($0.24) to be sold on the market for 9 dirhams (USD 0.88). If exports resume, the situation risks getting worse, and a kilo could reach up to 12 dirhams (USD 1.17),” explains the official. 

It is crucial to note that West Africa is the main destination for Moroccan onions on the international market. 

According to data compiled on the Trademap platform, the countries of the sub-region absorbed around 86% of shipments from the Moroccan sector in volume which amounted to more than 68,900 tons in 2022.

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