MOROCCO – Morocco’s cultivated rosemary season, which started in May, is coming to a near end with calendars available until December for exporters to supply more of the herb to several markets across the globe.

According to the region’s rosemary growers, while wild rosemary from the country is exported all year round, their calendars for cultivated rosemary only last from May to December.

Rosemary is a plant deeply rooted in Moroccan traditions and essential to every household and available in every single spice store in the country.

While most Moroccan rosemary is grown wild and spontaneously, cultivated rosemary is particularly highly prized on the international market, thanks to its high rosemary and carnosic acid consistency.

These high value extracts are of interest to manufacturers of active ingredients for pharmaceutical and food industries uses, revealed Mehdi Benchekroun, a rosemary grower and exporter in the Ouarzazate region.

“Demand comes from the biggest producers of active ingredients, in the USA, Canada, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, China and India,” added the exporter.

“Rosemary is thus exported dry, shredded, or sheeted, depending on the industrial process used and the active ingredient in question.”

Part of the demand for cultivated rosemary varieties, of which Morocco has more than 26, according Benchekroun, is for culinary use or oil extraction. Rosemary is then exported fresh in its green color.

Moroccan competitors in the rosemary markets include Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean basin, as well as in China and North America.

However, Moroccan production stands out, especially for industrial uses because, while the competition’s rosemary contains, on average, between 1.5% and 2.6% of carnosic acid, Moroccan rosemary from selected plants and cultivated areas contains up to 6%.

Moreover, the business appears to be statistically lucrative because in 2022, revenue of the spices and culinary herbs market in Morocco totaled USD 219 million.

A recent restructuring of the industry

Recently, the agricultural authorities in the country were tasked with the role of supervising the harvesting stage and organizing auctions to allocate parcels to private companies.

“While this mode of production works well for certain uses, it has obvious limitations, such as abuse of harvesting, lack of traceability, and unsuitable handling storage conditions,” outlined Karim Belkheir Goutr, CEO of 4 Seasons Mediterranean Aromas.

Apparently, the Agricultural Development Agency has done a great deal of work to develop and modernize the rosemary sector in Morocco.

It introduced a framework to production by cultivation, with strict regulations, allowing the selection of varieties, certification, traceability, and the development of rosemary by-products.

USAID’s support according to Karim was important in this process, as it enabled us to adopt a regulatory model and best practices like that of the USA.

The area involved in this production method is around 10,000 hectares, and it is the source of rosemary for sophisticated use such as botanic extraction of acids.

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