Climate change puts the Moroccan sugar industry in dire straits

For a country that was an exporter of sugar as early as the 16th century, Morocco should now be among the world’s leading producers and exporters of this product.

A sugar factory

But there is no trace of this early success because the Moroccan sugar industry is said to be in total ruin, not because of the unsavory weather conditions caused by global climate change.

Today, cultivation of the crop is said to be limited to a few places in the northern and southern regions of the country, while no trace of the crop is found in its first stronghold, the province of Agadir, where l he pioneer sugar factory operated in the 16th century.

“In the 16th century, this place (Agadir province) had the sugar factory, and Morocco exported sugar. It created jobs for the population while the country earned foreign currency from its importation. It has retreated due to climate change, causing excessive evaporation and leaving the soil with enough water for the crop to survive,” Professor Ahmed Oghammou told a team of media officers from the Earth Journalism Network ( EJN) of Internews at 22 years old.n/a Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Marrakech, Morocco.

Fellows were on a field trip. Professor Oghmmou is from the Department of Biology at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech.

It was discovered that Agadir and its surroundings, on the border of Marrakech and Casablanca, have been completely invaded by the desert, turning the place into an arid land.

Local farmers are struggling to bring the land back to life with agricultural support from the government to encourage irrigated farming, which however will not be for sugarcane.

Morocco’s fortunes from sugar kept falling to such an extent that the country could not even meet local demand, let alone export.

It was found that in a recent decision, the government announced its intention to withdraw subsidies for sugarcane cultivation and channel the money into other more profitable areas, including health.

“Not just sugarcane, so many indigenous crops are affected,” adds Professor Oghmmou. “We have a very big problem of lack of rain. And we have very high evaporation. Thus, only crops adapted to low rainfall can survive. We have the dry season in the summer. For example, between May, June, July, August, maybe September, no rain in these places. Before, we had snow which slowed down evaporation. But that, too, is rare – and all because of climate change. »

Reports show that the country produced 470,000 metric tons of sugar at the end of the 2014/2015 planting season, which was even considered insufficient to meet local consumption, thus prompting the Kingdom to resort to imports to fill the gap. his sugar deficiency.

In 2014, the country could only cover 40% of its consumption.

But Mounir Hassan, an official of the Moroccan Interprofessional Sugar Federation (FIMASUCRE), announced at the international sugar conference in Marrakech last year that “the Moroccan government has invested more than 5.5 billion dirhams for the upgrade and modernization of the manufacturing base”. ”. The Morocco-based sugar producer will continue its efforts to increase national sugar production to exceed national needs by 56% by 2020”.

Experts said a lot of investment could be needed to bring Morocco’s sugar industry back to the good old days, but it will take a lot of work, involving reclaiming degraded land and increasing water availability.

By Innocent Ono

Rachel J. Bradford