Monday, August 22, 2011

How Organic is Moroccan Food?

To the legions of Western eco-tourists who descend on Morocco every year, the souk symbolizes a way of life distant from the ills of the modern food economy. If the supermarket, with its packaged goods and processed foods symbolizes the evils of the 'food-industrial complex', the souk epitomizes 'organic': produce is piled in haphazard pyramids, as if thrown there by the farmhands who picked it. Many fruits and vegetables are speckled with clods of dirt, too 'organic' to be cleaned before sale. However, these appearances are deceiving. Despite the quaintness and charm of the souk, Morocco is far from an 'eco-gastronomy' paradise.
In a recent article on the Morocco Board News Service, Matt Schumann asks just how organic Morocco's agriculture actually is.

According to the most recent data from the World Resources Institute, the area of Morocco's cropland totals around 9,445,000 hectares, slightly less than that of California. In 2006, only 5,955 hectares were devoted to certified organic farming. More than half of these are devoted to Argan oil production which, unlike other agriculture, occurs spontaneously. Compare this with California which devoted nearly 175,000 hectares of cropland to organic farming in 2007

What has prevented Morocco from taking advantage of this potential economic growth?

Alaoui writes that organic farming not high on the government's economic agenda. Though agricultural development is a national priority, such efforts focus on increasing crop yields and water conservation. The former can encourage decidedly un-organic practices, like increased fertilizer use, and while expanding organic farming could reduce overall water consumption, there are other less resource and labor intense ways of doing so.

Additionally, Morocco has neither national standards for organic farming nor any means to certify its organic farms. Setting up a national certification system would take time and money. Guaranteeing its veracity would require significant oversight. Yet these costs are necessary if Morocco hopes to profit from its organic potential. It is the lack of such a certification system that makes it impossible for Morocco's already fledgling organic farms to export their produce to Europe.

See the full story here: Morocco Organic?

1 comment:

tasteofbeirut said...

There is a similar problem in Lebanon, despite the efforts of individuals such as Kamal Mouzawak in his Souk el Tayeb, complying with organic standards is too costly for the small producer, and the government in Lebanon does not help nor subsidize farmers.