Interview: Abdelhamid Aboulkassim
What role does organic farming play in the development of Morocco’s agriculture sector?
ABDELHAMID ABOULKASSIM: Organic farming represents a step forward for agriculture in Morocco. However, with around 11,000 ha of cultivated area and 200,000 ha of untended area – including the cultivation of organic argan and aromatic plants, which make up more than 140,000 ha and 70,000 ha, respectively – it is still an underdeveloped segment. Meanwhile, exports are made up of 10,000 tonnes of processed products and 7000 tonnes of fresh products. It is now that solutions must be found to boost the production and sales of organic farming for flagship products such as citrus fruits, red fruits and olive oil, thus counteracting the low sales seen between 2018 and 2020.
Furthermore, in September 2018 a new law came into effect to regulate the organic production of agricultural and aquatic products. Law No. 39.12 provides a framework for the segment. The organic market is a great niche for Moroccan producers, as both demand and supply are present in the market. Medium and large cities have populations with great purchasing power, who are aware of the problems caused by the misuse of pesticides, and are concerned about their health and protecting the environment.
How can the challenges to organic farming be met?
ABOULKASSIM: A number of challenges, such as the lack of subsidies, certification, supervision and training, slow the development of organic farming. However, many solutions are available to overcome these issues and allow the segment to flourish. For example, organic inputs and seeds must either be made available at subsidised prices or be exempt from value-added tax. It is also necessary to help farmers obtain the organic label that is required to market their product. Furthermore, support structures are required so farmers can obtain export assistance. In addition, farmers must have access to distribution channels, and a regulatory agency must be created to ensure an attractive environment for producers. Lastly, it is important to maximise the value of the product. To accomplish this, sector players must be provided with the means to invest and transform their product locally, creating more added value. Once this is accomplished, the sector will change quickly.
There is great potential for small farms – which are organic by default, because they do not use chemicals – but they are generally located far from large consumption centres. To integrate these operations, it is necessary to develop proper networks from a logistical and organisational point of view. Once grouped, these producers will be able to mobilise sufficient quantities of their product to consumption centres.
Which initiatives should be prioritised under the next Green Morocco Plan?
ABOULKASSIM: With the Green Morocco Plan, agriculture has undergone very important development, but there are two issues to address moving forward. First, distribution channels must be strengthened. In fact, encouraging investment in agriculture has enabled greater production, which in turn has introduced the issue of commercialisation. Morocco is fairly dependent on foreign markets, and for the time being it does not have adequate logistics networks. Second, the delay in establishing an investment code for the transformation of agricultural products has impacted the sector’s revenues. It is now necessary to create a real value-added processing industry so that agriculture has a greater impact on the country’s overall economic growth. It is also important to conduct research in areas with high added-value or high production potential and to strengthen the organic segment.
Moreover, local products must be promoted. Morocco is making great efforts to develop sustainable agriculture in order to ensure its food security, and organic farming can be a real economic and social lever. It will also reconnect urban centres with rural areas.
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