28 October, 2020
EBRD/FAO initiative promotes export opportunities
· Online marketplace brought Moroccan producers together with Central and Eastern European importers
· Morocco’s proximity to Europe and production of fruits and vegetables, including counter-season produce, are big draws
· Improving quality, efficiency and marketing of Moroccan produce can open up new export opportunities
On 8 and 9 October 2020, around 25 Moroccan fruit and vegetable producers took part in Fresh Market – a virtual marketplace bringing together producers, suppliers, big retail chains and importers of fresh fruits and vegetables from across the world.
Prior to the virtual marketplace, the producers had a chance to network with importers and potential clients from Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Moldova during two days of tailored online business-to-business, or B2B, meetings.
These events were supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
They fall under a broader EBRD/FAO initiative with Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests and Morocco FoodEx, the Ministry’s export control and promotion arm, to improve high value-added trade opportunities for Moroccan fruit and vegetable producers.
EBRD Middle East and North Africa’s Principal Banker for Agribusiness, Othman Tlemcani said these meet-ups are beneficial, as they allow “Moroccan exporters to continue making important face-to-face business contacts during COVID-19 – albeit safely, online – with people interested in sourcing their produce,” he said.
“The exporters also come away with a better understanding of the demand and requirements in these markets, so they can make production adjustments and investments to become more competitive.”
Morocco’s proximity to Europe makes it an ideal source for fresh produce, including counter-season fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, berries, cucumbers and peppers.
While the country produces an array of fresh produce, its small citrus and avocadoes stand out for their export potential.
Morocco is already the fourth largest exporter of clementines and mandarins – accounting for just over 12 percent of global exports of small citrus fruit last year.
And avocadoes enjoy fast growing international demand and prices, although the fruit needs ample water to grow.
The EBRD/FAO initiative is carrying out competitiveness studies on Moroccan small citrus fruits and avocadoes. The team is looking at opportunities for value addition, taking into consideration the impact on producers, employment and water productivity.
One objective is to propose incentives for the adoption of more sustainable, efficient and less water-intensive production practices.
Understanding market demands
To be competitive in both global and domestic markets, Morocco’s small and medium producers need to improve quality and efficiency – and also find ways to set their fresh produce apart, like organic production or the use of origin-based labels.
At the request of Morocco FoodEx, the EBRD/FAO initiative is studying the possibility of developing a sustainable branding or labelling strategy that could give Moroccan fresh produce an edge in the market.
The team is looking at best international practices, existing domestic and international labels and market expectations and trends.
Earlier in the year, pre-COVID-19, a smaller group of Moroccan citrus, tomato and berry producers and their interprofessional association representatives travelled to Poland to explore trade prospects.
They visited wholesale markets, met with importers and main retail chains and saw the level of efficient and reliable logistics needed to operate in the Polish market.
Morocco FoodEx has since requested FAO’s assistance in identifying options to develop a logistics platform for Moroccan fruits and vegetables in Central and Eastern European markets.
“Understanding the specific needs of potential importers and overcoming logistics obstacles along the supply chain, be it storage, packaging or transport, could be a game changer for Morocco’s smaller producers, helping them to crack into a wider export market,” FAO Agribusiness and Value Chain Specialist Florent Tomatis said.