The main agricultural operators have been present in Morocco for many years, but they have always faced an important limitation in their structures and plans: Moroccan regulations prohibited foreign natural or legal persons and Moroccan companies owned by foreigners from owning agricultural land. Thus, foreign operators have only been able to exploit agricultural land through leasing contracts or emphyteutical censuses.
This is about to change, as the aforementioned prohibition on acquiring agricultural land has been repealed by Law No. 62-19, which came into force this year.
This rule allows Moroccan joint-stock companies (sociétés anonymes) and joint-stock companies (sociétés en commandite par actions) to acquire agricultural land without any limitation, even if all of their capital stock belongs to foreign shareholders. The acquisition of the land must be authorized by a regional investment commission after the interested parties present an agricultural investment project to said commission.
The moment chosen for this turn is not accidental, as it opens up new opportunities for Spanish and foreign agricultural funds and companies now that interest in investing in the agricultural sector is at its highest. The fact that the sector has been resistant to the last crises has led to more acquisitions of agricultural companies than ever before.
In fact, there are many companies in the sector that, despite the strict regulations in force so far, have been making significant investments on the other side of the Strait, given the attractiveness of the early production of some fruits and vegetables and the special socioeconomic conditions that make Morocco a relevant player in products such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, beans, and strawberries, among many other products. For example, as a result of Brexit and the trade agreements reached between Morocco and the United Kingdom, in January 2021, Moroccan agricultural product exports to this country grew by 51% over the same month of the previous year. This percentage skyrocketed to 459% in strawberry exports. Thus, 75% of the berries and 25% of the tomatoes consumed in the United Kingdom currently come from Morocco, which already surpasses the Netherlands as a supplier of fruits and vegetables for the UK.
The law has already entered into force, but its effective application is subject to regulatory development, which must regulate certain issues, such as the specifications that the land buyer must comply with and the kind of sale contract to be used.