MOROCCO – The Moroccan government has enacted strict regulations, capping the maximum land areas authorized for watermelon cultivation in key production zones in a bid to conserve diminishing water resources.
The decision, announced during an administration meeting on October 18, 2023, imposes stringent limitations on watermelon farming in pivotal regions like Zagora, a province significant for growing this water-intensive crop.
The provincial governor has decreed that watermelon cultivation be restricted to a maximum of one hectare.
Moreover, the restrictions encompass all varieties of watermelon within areas proximate to drinking water supply points, as demarcated by local committees.
These demarcated regions include facilities that provide potable water, the perimeters adjoining the Draa River across the oases, and even the riverbeds themselves.
Local authorities have established oversight committees to enforce the directive. These bodies are tasked with monitoring the volume of water utilized for irrigation and assessing the status of water reserves.
Furthermore, these committees possess the authority to take legal action against individuals contravening the stipulated cultivation limits.
The initiative follows the Ministry of Agriculture’s earlier move in September 2022, discontinuing irrigation subsidies for water-demanding crops like avocados, watermelons, and citrus fruits, signaling growing concerns about water scarcity in the country.
The situation has been exacerbated by worsening climatic conditions, consecutive droughts, and Morocco’s ranking among nations with the lowest per capita water resources, as highlighted by World Bank reports.
Forecasts by the World Bank indicate a bleak outlook for Morocco’s water resources, predicting a depletion to 500 cubic meters per capita by 2050, edging closer to the dire benchmark of extreme water scarcity.
However, despite these water scarcity concerns, multiple companies are showing interest in investing in Morocco’s fresh produce sector.
Grupo Alcoaxarquia, a Spanish agri-food firm, for instance, has expanded its operations into Morocco’s growing avocado industry underscoring the complex challenges of cultivating water-intensive crops in drought-prone regions.
The Moroccan subsidiary of Alcoaxarquia aims to process and ship around 5,000 tons of avocados to various European markets.
“We look forward to capitalizing on Morocco’s agro-climatic conditions similar to certain Spanish production areas,” outlined Juan Becerra, the Managing Director of the Spanish firm.
The sector is perceived as highly promising following the period between July 2022 and May 2023 where Morocco emerged as a significant player in the global avocado market, exporting a substantial 45,000 tons valued at USD 139 million.
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