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Turmoil in the oil industry. Morocco bursts onto the scene

Hefty investments in a dynamic country, ready to conquer a relevant place on the international market. After a first-rate event in Meknès, we interviewed Noureddine Ouazzani, director of Agro-pole Olivier

Noureddine Ouazzani

Noureddine Ouazzani is the Agro-pole Olivie director, motor of the olive industry renaissance in Morocco.

The dynamism seen while visiting your country is rare to be seen elsewhere in these times. Is it just my impression or is it for real?
It has been for real in many fields for several years. It is a direct product of a political goal of the royal family.

The Agropole Olivier has assumed a central role in this propulsive push for a modern and functional agriculture. Briefly, what is under way for the next months and years?
The future project of the Agro-pole Olivier is to host the Vth edition of the Mediterranean Day of the Olive Tree in Meknès. Moreover, we would like to host the two main activities, in Morocco, on technological transfer and the Oil Tree Day in Meknès. The Agro-pole Olivier has also been trying to set up collaborations to build a museum of the olive tree and an interactive exhibition on olive groves for the kids, who are the future consumers of olive oil.

What Morocco do you desire intimately, from the standpoint of the olive oil industry? Midway through tradition and modernity? Or simply oriented to modernity, with only superintensive olive groves?
In Morocco, the olive tree cultivation is tradition and modernity. 95% of nowadays industry is still traditional. There have been recent developments from semi-intensive to intensive culture, which is convenient where water is more abundant, especially after new investments. Morocco produces not much oil (80 to 100 thousand tons), but there are very interesting opportunities, both for the local and for the international market, especially in light of the free trade agreement with the USA. More than 80% of the yearly plans are traditional (100 to 200 trees per hectare).

When I was in Marrakech I saw that olive trees were being uprooted and carried away? To where? Is it allowed by the law? In Italy, for example in Puglia, it happens that secular trees are uprooted at night and brought to villas, but this is illegal. What is this tradition here? Why? And what do you think of that?
The Marrakech case stands alone. The expansion of the city justifies uprooting trees at times. It is not the same type of traffic that has interested Spain and other countries. For example in Marrakech you might have seen the activity of a new farming businessman, Mr. Devico, who loaned a farm and wanted to uproot all old, unproductive olive trees to plant new trees, with a 7x5 density instead of 10x10.

Frankly and objectively, what is your judgment of Moroccan extra virgin olive oils?
Thinking of Meknès, where a huge effort and a good job to produce oils of better quality has been done recently, thanks to the modernization of the chopping system. I can only say that Meknès oil is finally being recognized internationally and not just in Morocco.

In conclusion, do you think that the per capita consumption of oil in Morocco may increase? Do you think that the low consumption is due to prices or habits? Olive oils are not very much utilized in restaurants: why?
I personally believe that many efforts to make the Moroccan consumer more sensitive to the quality of olive oil and more educated are still to be done. I do think that the consumptions can be increases. Recently the market of bottled olive oil has known some interest. For sure, the prices limit the sales, but I do not think this is the main reason of the low consumption. I am sure that a good communication and nutritional education effort will have a positive impact on consumers and restaurants.

by Luigi Caricato
06 september 2010, Technical Area > Olive & Oil

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