One of the most common experiences a visitor has on arriving in Morocco is their first taste of Moroccan orange juice. As many people say - it is like tasting a real orange for the first time. Yet, juicing Moroccan oranges in Europe often turns out to be a disappointment. The View from Fez put our orange juice expert, Ibn Warraq, on a fact-finding mission. Here is his report.
It is an almost impossible task to describe the taste of orange juice. Tangy yet sweet? A vitamin C mouth explosion? The best description I have come across was from an Australian tourist who said that Moroccan orange juice tasted like a mouthful of liquid sunshine.
However the secret ingredient in Moroccan oranges is even more ephemeral - it is history.
The Amazigh (Berber) peoples of Morocco first bought OJ off the Romans who planted citrus groves in the area around Volubilis. The citrus growing tradition has continued over the centuries and changed little until the French arrived and decided that oranges were a great product to export. They planted large orchards and introduced modern farming methods. Meanwhile, the small family owned citrus groves have continued in much the same way they have done over the years.
According to Ahmed Ait-Oubaho from the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Complexe Horticole d’ Agadir, the annual production of the country oscillates from 1.2 to 1.5 million tons obtained from approximately 76500 ha.
Citrus cultivation represents an important source of employment for thousands of families. As over 40% of the production volume is exported, it is considered the first crop oriented to foreign markets. It is a very important source of hard currency. Morocco is classified the 4th largest fresh citrus exporting country in
the world and the 2nd largest of clementine type exporter. European Union markets are by far the main destination of Moroccan export. However, in the last years, there was a significant diversification towards Russia and Canada.
So, to return to the original question. It appears that the exported citrus, while of very high quality, does not make orange juice that tastes like that from traditional farms. But, don't take my word for it. Taste test the theory in any Moroccan town or village, and right now it the time to do it as this has been a bumper year for citrus with the size of fruit is larger than the average and a crop increase thanks to ideal weather conditions with rains in October and November.
The crop growth is also due to the start of production of 1,200 hectares of new plantations. In total, the harvest should reach 1.86 million tons, recording an upsurge by 6%.
According to estimates by Fellah Trade, Credit Agricole's publication in Morocco, orange crop is expected to total 975,000 tons (52% of the total) while mandarins and clementines will reach 764,000 tons.
The clementines season ended at the end of December, leaving space to the variety Nour, with first shipments to North America and the European Union. Moroccan producers hope not to get rain until the end of the harvest of Nour and Afourer.
Very few tonnes of Navels will be exported due to a strong demand from the internal market. Clementines’ growers had big expectations at the beginning of the season, while consumers are negotiating very hard for the price, which is lower than the previous season. Domestic consumption for the moment is stagnated and the processing trends are negative as well. Also during the Christmas period the demand was low.