Strawberry farmers in Morocco showcase their harvest at annual festival celebrating juicy red fruit
Strawberry farmers in Morocco are showcasing their harvest at an annual festival celebrating the juicy red fruit. But festival organisers say that an unusually warm winter meant more competition from Spain, impacting Morocco's strawberry exports to the European Union.
The fair, held in the seaside town of Moulay Bousselham, is designed to familiarise Moroccan strawberry growers with new methods of producing and conserving the fruit.
This year's theme was "For the production of red fruits in tune with climate change."
Morocco was one of the top exporters of the fruit in 2014, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
While the climate in the north African country means that Moroccan growers are usually the first to export their harvest, an unusually mild winter meant that Moroccan and Spanish strawberries hit the market ahead of schedule, and at the same time, according to festival organisers.
"This season, climate change affected strawberry exports because the production coincided with Spain's. Morocco did not export the usual quantity to the European Union as in the previous years because of climate change," said the director of the strawberry festival, Abdelkrim Naaman.
Despite this shift, farm manager Hassan Chakir said that prices have stabilised.
"This year, the product was abundant because the weather was hot during November and December. We had our production at the same time as Spain and Europe which affected the price. But today, we reached the industry phase where prices are stable," he said.
But exporters have said they are not overly concerned by their share of the EU market going down and that they're searching for new markets, such as the Gulf.
Jalal Misrar, a strawberry grower and exporter, said local exporters are not competing for the same markets.
"When we find a problem in a given market, we try to find other markets. This year, the local market was not bad and we went for the Gulf markets that were better than the European ones but they did not take large quantities. Despite this, we managed to balance our exports," he said.
The annual event is also an opportunity for locals to sample the produce and to promote as well as celebrate the home grown crop.