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An agribusiness hub
02/12/2014  -  in ANBA

The Moroccan city of Meknes is the main agricultural hub in the country and home to Agropolis, an industrial park for businesses in the sector. One of the highlights is the production of olive oil.

Meknes – The city of Meknes, in eastern Morocco, is the main agricultural center in the country. “We have the greatest food hub in Morocco,” emphasized Hassan Bahi, Director of the Meknes-Tafilalet Regional Investment Center. “This is a region with great biodiversity potential,” he stated this Wednesday (29), in an interview with a group of Brazilian journalists.

To promote the sector in the region, the government recently created an industrial park, called Agropolis, where companies in the sector are beginning to settle in, such as the Swiss bio-fertilizers company, Elefante Verde.

The area, currently under the first phase of development that covers 130 hectares, will hold research and development laboratories, as part of the Green Morocco Plan, created in 2008 to double the sector’s income by 2020. The government’s aim, according to Abdelkarim Ouahchi, Investment Consultant, is to expand the park to 450 hectares. Currently, 15 companies are preparing to set shop at Agropolis.

Already established at the park is Agro-pôle Olivier, an olive oil production and export promotion center for the region of Meknes. “Olives are an opportunity for business between Brazil and Morocco, because Brazil is an olive oil importer,” recalled Noureddine Ouazzani, who is in charge of the center.

The region of Meknes currently produces 120,000 tons of olive oil per year. “We account for 60% of Morocco’s olive oil and we export 90% of what we produce,” said Ouazzani. “Our olive oils are intense, with a fruit flavor, which are most appreciated by consumers,” he evaluated.

The region of Meknes currently produces 120,000 tons of olive oil per year. “We account for 60% of Morocco’s olive oil and we export 90% of what we produce,” said Ouazzani. “Our olive oils are intense, with a fruit flavor, which are most appreciated by consumers,” he evaluated.

According to Ouazzani, the region produces various types of olives. “We have not only the Moroccan type, but also Greek, Spanish and Italian. In Meknes we are capable of producing the best quality olive oil, with international standards,” he emphasized.

Currently, most of the Moroccan olive oil is exported to the United States, but the country has an eye on the Brazilian market. “Morocco could have a share of that market, particularly in the high-end olive oil segment,” stated Ouazzani.

According to him, only 5% of the world population consumes olive oil. “The potential market is of 95%,” he stated. In Morocco, the annual olive oil consumption is of only two kilos per person. In Italy, this figure reaches 19 kilos, while in Greece the average is 23 kilos per person per year.

Dairy products

Meknes also hosts one of the four factories of Centrale Laitière, a branch of Danone in Morocco. With a 65% market share, the company produces 800,000 tons of dairy products per year, of which 220,000 tons at the plant visited by ANBA alone.

In 2014, the Meknes plant expects to produce 249,000 tons. “The greatest part of our production is pasteurized milk, which is a product that sells every day,” says the Factory Director, Abdellah Noau,

At the plant, which counts on 274 employees, the entire process is automated and investments are ever increasing. In 2013 investments added up to US$ 4.28 million (35.25 million dirhams), and the amount this year is expected to reach US$ 14.59 million (120 million dirhams), due to a plant expansion.

The factory also produces many types of yogurt and dairy beverages, and the company believes in the potential for increase in domestic consumption. In Morocco, the annual milk consumption per person is of 62.7 kilos. In Finland, country with the highest milk consumption, this figure reaches 150 kilos per person per year.

Brazilian brakes

During the visit to Meknes, ANBA also met an entrepreneur interested in importing auto parts. Saaoud Abdeslam, from Enterprise Saaoud, said he is currently negotiating with Fras-Le, from the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul and a branch of road equipment manufacturer Randon, to import and distribute Brazilian brakes.

“I have visited Brazil five times. I want to first develop business in Morocco, and then take it to Algeria and other countries in North Africa,” said Abdeslam.