Agronometrics in Charts: The Moroccan blueberry industry, Emergence to global dominance
February 22, 2024

The Moroccan blueberry industry has steadily ascended to international prominence, marking a journey of strategic cultivation and sustainable growth. Since the inception of blueberry plantations in 2005, the nation has witnessed a remarkable surge, with blueberry acreage expanding more than 15-fold over the past 15 years. Positioned at the crossroads of a privileged location and favorable environmental conditions, Morocco has emerged as a key player in the global blueberry market.

In the nascent stages of 2005, a handful of Moroccan producers embarked on the cultivation of blueberries. The first decade saw modest yet consistent year-on-year growth, with local farmers delving into the nuances of this new berry in the main producing area of Loukos Gharb in the north. However, from 2015 onwards, the trajectory witnessed an exponential ascent, propelled by the infusion of foreign capital. Experienced farmers expanded plantations not only in Loukos Gharb but also in new cultivation areas such as Agadir in the center-north and Dakhla to the south.

By 2020, Morocco had achieved a monumental feat, producing 35,100 tons of blueberries— 19 times higher than the yield in 2005. This meteoric rise speaks to the synergy of capital, experience, and favorable conditions converging to create a thriving blueberry industry.

The production window extends from December to June. The last few seasons have demonstrated stability at scale, approaching 55,000 tons sent to different markets around the world, mainly Europe.

 Morocco Fresh Export Volume By Partner | Cultivated Conventional

During the 2022/23 season, a cold snap which lasted several weeks, caused a notable decrease in blueberry volumes, harvest schedules were disrupted and steep hikes in pricing were recorded.

 Morocco Fresh Export Volume History | Cultivated Conventional

As the 2023/24 blueberry season approaches, SunCrops Sales and Procurement manager, German Perez, highlights the company’s proactive stance in preparing for potential challenges. Water management takes center stage, particularly crucial in arid regions like Morocco. Logistics and packaging also pose challenges, requiring meticulous coordination to maintain the freshness and quality of the produce.

"Despite last year's challenges, we're actively preparing for a promising season. Lessons learned from previous seasons have better equipped us for this year, aiming for a more consistent production despite potential challenges," says Perez.

“Coordinating the logistics for transporting the blueberries from Agadir to Casablanca can be a complex process. We have to ensure a reliable and timely supply chain since this is crucial for maintaining the freshness and quality of the produce. Finally, access to packaging materials, specifically punnets and plastic containers, is constrained, making it challenging to procure diverse packaging options. Importing these materials into Morocco poses significant difficulties," Perez adds.

SunCrops prioritizes the European market while actively exploring opportunities in emerging Asian and Middle Eastern markets, despite potential weather challenges in Agadir. Preparatory efforts include strategies to manage weather variables for stable production.

 Morocco Fresh Export Volume By Partner | Cultivated Conventional

Storm Bernard which hit Morocco, Spain, and Portugal in October caused significant damage to the plantations of early varieties of blueberries which will likely cause high prices in the European market during the early weeks.

Frutta Group, a US-based company, has entered into a collaboration with Grupo Cheers Portugal to source blueberries from Morocco for the first time this winter. Juan Eduardo Sainz of Frutta Group highlights Morocco's emergence as a major global player in fresh blueberry production and export.

“They are purely an exporting country,” says Sainz. “As a result, the logistic options and facilities are very good. From Morocco, the journey to North America takes about 15 days into the ports of Philadelphia and Montreal and Spain is around the corner.”

Quality is anticipated to be high this season, with peak production in January, February, and March, driven by strong demand and reduced availability from the southern hemisphere. The export duration of 15 days from Morocco stands as a distinct advantage, particularly noteworthy in light of the prevailing delays being experienced in the Panama Canal, with ships facing wait times of up to three weeks to pass through the canal.

In MY 2022/23, Moroccan berries reached 37 foreign markets. A year ago, blueberries ranked 4th in the country’s export revenue structure, in just six months, the category moved to 2nd position. This brought Morocco $315 million in export revenue and gave the country the opportunity to rank 8th in the ranking of global suppliers of this product.

Morocco continues to conquer the UK market at an accelerated pace. A record volume of Moroccan blueberries was delivered to the UK market in the 2022/23 season. Moreover, Morocco managed to surpass one of the largest exporters of this product – Spain – in terms of blueberry shipments to the United Kingdom.

In MY 2022/23 (considering the period from July to June), the volume of Moroccan blueberry exports to the UK exceeded 11,000 tons, and the exports by value exceeded $80 million. It is noteworthy to observe that following the Brexit transition, there was a modification in data reporting procedures. Data predating 2020 reflects only partial imports from Morocco, as historical records were previously consolidated under Spain which served as the primary point of entry into the European Union.

UK Fresh Import Value By Partner | Cultivated Conventional

With an 800-hectare growth in the last season, the industry sets ambitious objectives, aiming for 6,000 hectares planted by 2030 and an annual production exceeding 100,000 tons. These goals not only underscore the industry's consolidation but also its determination to play a leading role in the international market. Stakeholders are optimistic about the season ahead, anticipating continued growth and strengthened market presence on both regional and international fronts.