Accounting for some 70% of agricultural exports, the EU is Morocco’s leading destination for agricultural goods. According to the Independent Institution for Exports Control and Coordination (Etablissement Autonome de Contrôle et de Coordination des Exportations, EACCE), in 2015 the EU imported 1.25m tonnes of Moroccan agricultural goods worth Dh15.9bn (€1.5bn), up from 1.17m tonnes in 2014. However, after an agricultural trade deficit in 2015 – with exports worth $4.2bn and imports of $4.3bn – the country is seeking to reduce dependency on the EU and increase revenue.
EYEING SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Morocco has been looking to develop in sub-Saharan Africa after rejoining the African Union in 2017. The government is investing in a trade and logistics platform in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to strengthen economic and trade ties with the country and use it as a springboard to the region. Under a public-private partnership, the platform will address the lack of logistics facilities, a main obstacle to increasing exports. “Our difficulties in this region are largely logistical,” Mehdi Larhrib, director of promotion and development at the EACCE, told OBG. “Apart from this, and as opposed to our experience in traditional foreign markets, trade barriers are essentially tariff-based.”
In February 2017 the authorities officially stated they wanted to join the Economic Community of West African States, a market of more than 300m people. Joining the bloc would deepen ties with West African countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, which accounted for 23%, or 5400 tonnes, of Morocco’s processed vegetables exports in 2015, a 755% increase from the previous year.
“The main challenge for reaching our agricultural ambitions is the insufficient logistics connections with other African countries,” Mohammed Fikrat, CEO of sugar producer Cosumar, told OBG. “We need to improve them and to work on the multilateral agreements with our African friends.” These steps to reintegrate with other markets on the continent indicate that Morocco is well positioned to make use of this potential.
TRADE OPPORTUNITIES: There are plans to develop non-traditional trade as well. “Morocco first ventured into new foreign markets such as Russia, but the country is increasingly looking for export opportunities in the Middle East and Asia, as well as in non-traditional EU markets, including Central and Eastern Europe,” Brahim Hamadi, technical director at the EACCE, told OBG. “We already export significantly to Russia and – to a lesser, albeit recently increasing extent – to Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, as well as China.” In 2017 local media reported preparations to sign a phytosanitary trade protocol with Japan, similar to those with the EU, the US and Russia. According to the UN Comtrade Database, Japan is the eighth-largest destination for Moroccan agricultural exports, with a 3.1% share in 2016.
EUROPEAN MARKETS: Efforts to grow trade with the EU has yielded results. In 2016 Morocco was the leading exporter of fruits and vegetables to Spain, with Dh4.5bn (€416.7m), compared to the next-largest exporter, France, with Dh3.4bn (€314.8m). Fruit and vegetable exports to Spain increased by 221% between 2012 and 2016. Morocco is also eyeing opportunities in Eastern Europe. “Maroc Citrus and the EACCE are working on a strategy targeting the consolidation of traditional European markets, and also entry into non-traditional ones, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Poland,” Ahmed Darrab, secretary-general of the Association of Moroccan Citrus Producers, told OBG.
TRADE AGREEMENT: Ultimately, this depends on the future of EU-Morocco trade relations. In December 2016 a decision by the European Court of Justice on protocols to the EU-Morocco Association Agreement excluded goods originating from Moroccan/Western Sahara. This resulted in some uncertainty regarding trade, as the kingdom insisted that the EU rectify the legal framework to ensure its application in Morocco. In May 2017 the Council of the EU mandated that the European Commission open negotiations on the adaptation of protocols to the EU-Morocco agreement.
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