Lhas die “fruits and vegetables” is one of the most dynamic activities of the national agricultural sector. In addition to its added value and the jobs created, it has a place of reference in terms of exports, generating very significant foreign exchange earnings. But this year, several risks hovered over the activity and operators feared significant adverse effects. Among these risks is notably drought.
The season was characterized by a significant rainfall deficit of 60% compared to a normal year. The effect was not long in coming on the water reserves of the dams, which at one point came close to the fateful bar of 30% filling rate. In the Souss region, which accounts for 50% of fruit and vegetable production and 80% of exports, the water stock has reached critical thresholds and some dams have approached drying up.
“We came close to disaster. We were very concerned about severe restrictions in water supply for irrigation. At the end of February, everyone thought the season was compromised. Fortunately, the months of March and April were very rainy, with peaks well above average. This water supply has had beneficial effects on the sector”, testifies Haj Brahim Ait Lhous, operator of early vegetables in the region of Agadir. The performances achieved had remarkable effects on exports. The volume exported exceeded 1.5 million tonnes, an increase of 16% compared to the last campaign.
This good performance is due in particular to the increase in exports of miscellaneous vegetables (+11%) and miscellaneous fruits (+63%), in particular grapes, peaches, nectarines, avocados, organic melon, apricots, etc. Citrus exports recorded a record volume during this season (from September 1, 2021 to June 13, 2022). The volume exported reached 735,400 tons, registering a growth of 42% compared to the same period of the previous campaign. This growth trend concerned all citrus species and all destinations. In this sense, the export volume of small citrus fruits reached, at the end of the current campaign, 628,600 tons, an increase of about 40% compared to the previous campaign. For market garden products, exports recorded a growth of 11% as of June 13, 2022, to reach a volume of around 1,418,600 tonnes. VS
With regard to tomatoes, the flagship product exported from the market gardening sector, the volume of exports reached 608,600 tonnes for the current campaign, compared to 521,800 tonnes during the previous campaign ended on the same date, i.e. an increase of around 17% , despite the cessation of exports in March in order to supply sufficient quantities to the local market and mitigate the rise in prices. Despite this performance, farmers remain cautious about the next crop year. Water resources are under severe strain.
“Current water availability in the dams is significantly lower than last year. This does not give enough visibility for the next season. It’s a very complicated situation, but the operators have become accustomed to such a hostile environment.”, we explain to the Association of Producers and Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables (Apefel). Indeed, the reserves of the dams reached 5.05 billion m3 on June 22, 2022, i.e. a filling rate of 31.3%, against 7.78 billion m3 during the same period last year, i.e. an occupancy rate of 48.3%. This water deficit risks weighing heavily on the outcome of the next season.