Dates in Morocco are some of the best in the world, but the industry has been struggling to increase production, global sales and to restore old palm groves.
In a normal year, domestic production of dates amounts to over 100,000 tons. Annual consumption of dates is 3 kg per person at the national level but as high as against 15 kg in the areas where the dates are produced.
While the geographical spread of date palms in Morocco is over 13 provinces located in the south-east of the country in particular Figuig, Errachidia, Tinerhir, Ouarzazate, Zagora and Tata Guelmim, the main production of dates is concentrated in three areas; Ouarzazate (41%), Tafilalet (28%) and Tata (20%). Ouarzazate and Errachidia alone contribute about 90% of the national production of dates.
Moroccan date groves cover an area of about 48,000 ha, corresponding to about 4.8 million palm trees at an average density of 100 plants per hectare, making the Kingdom the 3rd rank in the Maghreb region and the 7th globally.
The date industry is responsible for the creation of 1.6 million working days, equivalent to 6,400 permanent workers over 250 days per year.
Despite this performance, the industry faces a number of challenges, including production shortfalls and a varietal mix that is not necessarily and tailored to the needs of investors.
Morocco imports nearly 30% of dates to supply the local market so increased domestic production is a priority in order to meet domestic demand particularly during the period of Ramadan.
With the aim to promote and develop the date sector, the government has undertaken various actions to strengthen research facilities, coaching and encouraging farmers to restore and increase their palm groves
Included in the government program is a plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of existing palm trees on a total area of 48,000 ha and plantation expansion outside palm areas of 17,000 ha. The aim is to reach a production of 160,000 tonnes in 2020.
The government plan also aims to strengthen national availability of small palms for planting by increasing the average annual production capacity to 300,000 plants between 2010 and 2020 against 60,000 plants per year during the five-year period 2005-2009.
|A date palm nursery|
The plan is also investigating the development of exports of superior quality dates to reach 5,000 tonnes in 2020 against negligible amounts currently exported.
With the implementation of the Green Morocco Plan and through the considerable efforts of producers, the profession and the state, the date industry has improved significantly. Production had reached 108,000 tonnes by 2013, up 15% compared to 2010, the beginning of the program.
This year, the news is mixed with Morocco expecting its dates output to reach 92,000 tons in 2014, down by 12 pc compared to 2013 as a result of low rainfall.
|Inspecting dates at the 5th International Date Fair in Erfoud|
On Thursday agriculture and sea fisheries minister, Aziz Akhannouch, speaking at the 5th international dates fair in Morocco (Sidattes 2014), said that top quality varieties destined to export will post a surplus in the 2016-2017 season, due to increased investments in high added-value varieties.
Date production’s turnover is estimated annually at 2.7 billion dh and will reach 7 billion DH in 2020 with the Kingdom expected to reach self-sufficiency with an output of 160,000 tons, Aziz Akhannouch said.
The minister also announced the a dam, with a capacity of 280 million cubic meters of water, will be built in the southeastern region of Tafilalet to irrigate around 5,000 to 6,000 hectares of palm groves.