The second International Strawberry Festival came to close on Sunday in the Moroccan sea resort of Moulay Bousselham after having attracted participants from across the globe, including Peru, the birthplace of strawberries.
“Through this fair, we seek to improve both the quality and the production of strawberries and also to make small farmers aware of the necessity to organise themselves in the shape of co-operatives or associations so they could benefit from exporting their product and the high earnings of exportations,” said Chaoui Belassal, chairman of Moulay Bousselham community council.
The festival spotlighted the fruit from Morocco’s Gharb (West) region and acquainted farmers with advanced irrigation methods and the hazards of misusing pesticides and insecticides.
Academics such as Professor Abderrahman Tenkoul of Ibn Tofail University said their involvement was crucial to the festival as scientific research could uncover ways to improve quality standards while safeguarding consumer health.
The Nalsya Foundation for Development, Environment, and Social Action, a local non-governmental organization, collaborated with Moulay Bousselham communal council in coming up with newer, more efficient irrigation techniques, which could potentially save up to 35 percent of water usage.
Over 3,300 hectares have been devoted to strawberry farming in Morocco, mostly in the Northwestern area of the country.
A large proportion of harvest is exported, and the strawberry industry boasts 25,000 workers, predominantly women from rural areas.
The strawberry industry has observed an increase in production, but a formal union has yet to be established to offer support. Farmers such as Allal Lekhal await governmental response.
“We export around 30 percent of our production and the state should help us. This year, the frost damaged strawberries as well as avocados, bananas, oranges and all the other fruits and vegetables. This is why we need help. So far, we have not got any,” Lekhal said.
Moroccan strawberry farmers remain optimistic however, as they take advantage of their country’s favorable climate and soil conditions, over rivaling European neighbor, Spain, where winter is more detrimental to crops.
This North African country produces 140,000 annually, and exports around 30,000, mainly to the European Union.