Travel around Morocco and you will notice that the "prickly pear" cactus appears to be very common. When the fruit is ripe, the souks are full of trays of them and the sellers do good business. Now, the Moroccan government is to invest in more production.
The government intends to develop and expand the industry, following in the footsteps of Mexico, which is a global leader in cactus farming. The plan is to include cactus in a broad range of products from cosmetics to food.
A group of Mexican academics paid a visit to Ben Guerir, northwest of Morocco and shared their expertise on the topic in front of the Moroccan Association for the Development of the Cactus.
"The production of cactus in Mexico is very important now because this product is used in many ways as food for animals and human beings and also for cosmetic and medical uses. In Mexico, we make many products out of cactus and we export them to many countries abroad. This plant is very important for our health because it reduces cholesterol and also sugar levels for diabetics," said Mexican academic Dr. Ana Lila Vigueras during the visit to Morocco.
Abdelrahman Ait Hammou, the association’s director, says awareness of the benefit of cacti is crucial in stimulating demand which in turn affects farmers’ production.
The first attempt in increasing the cactus industry was six years ago, with the aim of generating job opportunities, especially for rural women. Currently, eight varieties of cactus exist nationwide and the fruit can be found in markets year-round.
Morocco plans to plant 300,000 more square meters of cactus plants over the next five years