Moroccan horticulture offer potential for the production of labor-intensive fruit and vegetable crops. This is according to the group of Dutch growers who visited that country in late January. They are from the Pamosa Growers Association. These farmers went to the agricultural region of Agadir in Morocco. The visit's goal was to gain more insight into the horticultural activities in that country and the possibilities it offers.
During their three-day visit, the growers got a better picture of the threat Morocco poses as well as the opportunities it offers. In the Agadir region, they visited different companies. According to ZON magazine, specialists from two Dutch companies, Enza Zaden, and Royal Brinkman, led the tour group.
Morocco has 18,000 hectares of covered cultivation. Of this, 80% can be found in the Agadir region. Here, they mainly grow tomatoes (60%) and bell peppers (20%). The remainder of the acreage is used for courgettes, aubergines, melons, and soft fruit. Cultivation is done in tunnels or greenhouses.
These structures' floors are covered with plastic film. Their walls consist of thick plastic mesh. This protection is used to prevent the enormous disease pressure from whiteflies and miner moths. Most of the greenhouses are high. Their ridge height sometimes reaches up to 5,5 meters. This is in contrast to those found in Spain.
Agadir's climate is very favorable for covered cultivation. There are a limited number of cold nights. And on hot days, the temperature hardly ever exceeds 35°C. These mild temperatures mean production can occur just about year-round. The group of Dutch farmers found out that the crops quality and production level were above what they expected. The crops were growing, healthily. This was also the case with the end product. These products are mostly intended for export.
The biggest problem for Morrocan growers is the availability of sufficient, good-quality water. The reservoirs are not full enough. This is due to low rainfall figures in the area. Groundwater can be used. However, not all the growers are able to pump the water up from, as a depth of, sometimes, 400 meters.
Within two years, a plant which can desalinate large quantities of seawater will be operational. This process will, however, make water cost six times as much. Nematodes are also an issue. This is because crops are grown directly in the ground. In most crops, using rootstocks eliminates this problem.
Agadir is far from its sales areas in Europe. Transport takes five days. This causes transport costs to run up to EUR5,300 per truck. This is high; especially when compared to the Spanish competition. In contrast, hourly wages are low in Morocco.
For a daily wage of EUR10 to EUR15, workers labor for six to seven hours. For this amount, the large employers will throw in housing and meals. However, it remains difficult to find people to stay working in the sector. This is also the case in the Netherlands.
Filling the gap on the British market
Pamosa's chairperson, Rutger Lommerse, is pleased with the working trip. "Firstly, it was enjoyable to travel around with a group of members for a few days. This made for extra connections and we also had fun. When it comes to horticulture; it was exciting to be able to take a peek into the working of an upcoming competitor on the market."
"The Agadir region has a lot of clout, thanks to its cheap labor. We also consider the quality of the cultivation to be high. Although, the region still has a ways to go with regard to sustainability. Agadir is still trying to find its place on the international scene."
"We expect this region will respond quickly to the gap that will occur in the market in Great Britain. This gap is because of the possible Brexit. In short; we will certainly continue to follow this area's development with interest," concludes Lommerse.
Source: ZON Magazine