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Morocco’s Avocado Production Hits ‘All Time Record’ Amid Water Crisis

Morocco’s avocado production hit an “almost” all-time record despite recent pledges to decrease harvest amid water scarcity, says a new report by FreshPlaza, a fruits and vegetable market-focused news website.

The North African country’s avocado production reached 40,000 tonnes in the current agriculture season, the report indicated, quoting CEO of Moroccan Export Optimum Abdellah Elyamlahi as saying: “We came close to a historical record of Moroccan avocado production, but we will surely reach it next season.” 

Pledges to grow avocado yields come at a time when Moroccan authorities are vowing to step up efforts to tackle climate challenges – including drought.

Last year, the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture expressed concerns about drought following consecutive years of low rainfall and climatic disruption.

The ministry described the 2018-2022 drought as the worst Morocco has seen in 40 years, and the situation raised concerns among farmers and ordinary citizens alike.

While government officials have been vowing to maximize their efforts to tackle the situation, several reports have indicated the steady growth in the country’s production of fruits demands significant irrigation and water. 

As it faces almost unprecedented water challenges, Morocco continues to navigate the constraints of increasing its production and export of fruits and vegetables to keep up with demand from EU countries.

“The demand was also important, especially from the Netherlands, France, Spain, the UK, and Russia. We reached a record of exports during the month of November when Moroccan production did not have much competition on the Market,” Elyamalahi told FreshPlaza, stressing that Morocco is on track to triple its production to reach 100,000 tonnes.

“The steady increase in Moroccan avocado volumes has allayed fears of a sudden impact of the drought on avocado production,” said FreshPlaza’s report.
Elmalyahi described the fear as “not justified,” claiming: “The proof is that avocado volumes are increasing while many other crops are at a standstill. This is simply due to the fact that not all regions of Morocco are impacted in the same way; avocado cultivation is concentrated in the regions of Gherb and Lokus, which have huge groundwater reserves and do not have water stress problems.” 

Yet a host of similar reports have in recent months stressed that Morocco’s most severe drought in four decades hit all provinces across the country last year.

According to a World Bank report published last year, the drought was in large part responsible for the stagnation of the Moroccan economy’s post-COVID recovery.

“Morocco is among the world’s most water-stressed countries, a problem that is expected to worsen in the decades to come,” said the World Bank report, stressing that the country’s water challenges are set to worsen with climate change.

Despite such largely bleak assessments from reports and studies, the North African country has continued to strengthen its growth in the agricultural sector thanks to its water infrastructure deployment, allowing the country to position itself among major exports of fruits and vegetables.

Still, the World Bank report warned, “rainfed crops continue to be predominant [in Morocco] in terms of cultivated areas and exhibit extreme variability linked to erratic precipitation.” 

Just last month, the EU-focused data website Euroestacom reported that Morocco has overtaken Italy to become the second-largest supplier of watermelon in the European Union. With its watermelon exports to the EU having doubled between 2019 and 2022, moving from 149,000 kilograms to 270,000 kilograms, the country is second only to Spain in terms of watermelon exports to EU countries.

Within Morocco, meanwhile, many voices have questioned the country’s continuous cultivation of avocados and watermelons amid an alarming water crisis. 

Abdelghani Chehbouni, a professor at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) and the head of the university’s International Water Research Institute, said in an interview last year with Morocco World News that “Morocco is facing strong consequences of climate change” because “the agricultural sector alone consumes 85% of available water for irrigation.” 

Faced with a steadily deepening water crisis, Morocco needs to “rethink its agricultural system,” Chehbouni stressed. “As a population, we do not need to consume food outside its normal season … I can live without avocado, but I cannot live without water.”

Source : Moroccoworldnews