Mohammed Elguerrouj, Director General of the Agricultural Development Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Morocco says his government is going to lease 600,000 hectares to local and foreign investors. (Photo: Aurea Santos/ANBA)
Morocco leases lands to expand agricultural sector
The Moroccan agricultural sector generates US$ 11.56 billion, aim is to reach US$ 17 billion by 2020. The government is going to lease 600,000 hectares to local and foreign investors.
by Aurea Santos, special envoy*
Rabat – Morocco wishes to increase the country’s agricultural GDP to US$ 17 billion (140 billion dirhams) by 2020. In 2013, the sector generated US$ 11.56 billion (95 billion dirhams). A strategy created in 2008 by the government, the Green Morocco Plan, aims to promote Moroccan agribusiness and foresees new investments of US$ 1.1 billion (9 billion dirhams) by the end of the decade.
“There is an effort in Morocco to invest in the agricultural sector as the driving force of the national economy,” stated Mohammed Elguerrouj, Director General of the Agricultural Development Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Morocco, this Wednesday (29) to a group of Brazilian journalists. When it was created, the objective of the Green Morocco Plan was to double the agricultural sector’s revenues, which that year was of US$ 8.5 billion (70 billion dirhams).
The plan is an integrated effort that also involves the Ministries of the Interior, Finance and Industry. Currently, the main agricultural goods produced in Morocco are oranges, milk, beef and vegetables.
In order to expand production, Morocco started leasing land for agriculture projects. Participation is open for both Moroccan and foreign investors. Up to now, 100,000 hectares of lands have been leased and another 600,000 hectares should be leased by 2020.
In order to participate, interested parties should offer projects that promote the sector’s development. According to Abderrahim Benyassine, Partnership and Associations Director of the Moroccan agency, the quality of the project is more important to win the bidding process than the amount the company is willing to invest. The country is seeking projects with added value, with the possibility of developing the work of local farmers and small property owners, for example.
Among the countries that have invested in projects in Morocco are the United Arab Emirates, France, Portugal and Spain. The tenders, however, have attracted the attention of investors from other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, Argentina, Gabon, Senegal, Tunisia, South Africa and Australia.
There have been 31 foreign projects approved by the program, with a total land lease of 7,800 hectares. The leased land may be used for a period of more than 40 years, with the possibility for contract renovation, and the conditions for participating in the process are the same for Moroccans and foreigners.
Another product that sparks the interest of foreign investors, according to Benyassine, is argan oil, used in cosmetics. “Argan oil is produced only here, where it is certified and then sold around the world,” he emphasized.
When questioned about what could Morocco have to offer Brazilians, since Brazil has an abundance of fertile lands, Benyassine noted the advantages his countries poses for exports. “There is a strong demographic growth in Africa, and the workforce here, trained workforce, costs less than in Europe,” he stated. Also, Morocco has an association agreement with the European Union, which Brazil does not have.
*The journalist travelled at the invitation of the Moroccan Investment Development Agency (AMDI)
*Translated by Silvia Lindsey