MOROCCO – The much-anticipated first citrus harvests in Morocco for the autumn of 2023 have fallen slightly below expectations following the impact of unfavorable climatic phenomena on the country’s citrus sector.

The combination of a rainfall deficit, reduced irrigation allocations from dams, and early, recurrent heat waves has adversely affected both fruit yields and quality.

Initially projected to reach a volume of nearly 1.7 million tons, on an area of about 130,000 ha, representing a 4.2% increase compared to 2022, the estimated citrus production has faced setbacks, raising concerns among industry experts.

An authorized source notes that the first harvests are displaying average production, consistent with the previous season, which was also marked by reduced yields.

“This downturn is attributed to a significant rainfall deficit and the persistent challenge of repeated heat waves,” revealed the source.

The adverse climatic conditions, occurring earlier than usual, have disrupted the citrus production cycle, particularly in the Souss-Massa region, a vital citrus production area in Morocco, as well as in Beni Mellal and Marrakech.

The repercussions of these climatic anomalies extend to fruit size, production granulation, and overall fruit quality.

While citrus fruits in Gharb and Oriental have fared relatively well due to better rainfall and milder climates, other citrus-growing regions have experienced disruptions in their production cycles.

According to a report by Medias24, the impact on early clementine varieties, exacerbated by a mid-October heat wave in the Souss region, has resulted in sunburn affecting 15% of the harvests on average.

Issues such as granulation, particularly in early varieties, further contribute to the challenges faced by citrus growers.

Notably, farmers in various regions are grappling with the suspension of agricultural endowments from dams, forcing them to drill deeper wells to secure water resources.

However, the financial strain associated with this effort is considerable, with some farmers unable to continue drilling due to high costs.

Agricultural engineer observations highlight the series of heat waves throughout the year, each impacting different stages of citrus development, leading to drops in yield.

This year’s unique challenge lies in the unprecedented early occurrence of these heat waves, altering the traditional expectations of citrus producers.

Despite these challenges, there is optimism on the horizon for Moroccan citrus exports in the upcoming 2023-2024 campaign.

A recent forecast report indicates a remarkable 10% increase from the previous year, with an estimated export volume of 500,000 tons. The Souss region is expected to play a pivotal role in contributing over 300,000 tonnes to this export surge.

Morocco’s citrus industry has demonstrated resilience in the face of various challenges, including geopolitical tensions and global health crises.

While addressing the immediate concerns of the current harvest, the industry is poised for substantial growth in the export market, particularly to Russia and the European Union, which together account for over 66% of Moroccan citrus imports. Additionally, efforts to expand exports to the UK post-Brexit are underway.

“As Morocco navigates the complexities of climate-related challenges, the citrus industry remains forward-looking, with strategies in place to ensure the stability and growth of citrus production in the years to come,” reads the report.

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