Morocco has ~210 000 ha of planted almond trees, the 3rd largest area in the world behind Spain and its ~720 000 ha and the USA (~510 000 ha). But it produces less than 2% of the almonds consumed globally.
The 30 000 tons of shelled almonds produced by Morocco are however enough for the country to be self-sufficient. In 2017, nearly 90% of the almonds consumed in Morocco were local.
5 years later, in 2021, 85% of the almonds consumed in Morocco were... imported – mostly from California. There is a very good chance that the almonds in your gazelle horn (Moroccan almond cookies) purchased in a traditional pastry shop in Fez are American.
In 5 years, the shift has been radical, and we have witnessed the great replacement of the Moroccan almond without realizing it.
In the meantime, national almond planting programs are pursued: national production has doubled in 20 years. Morocco is producing more and more almonds, that are not consumed in Morocco, nor are they exported. Less than 1% of the local production is exported in a context of growing global demand.
Worldwide demand for shelled almonds was evaluated at 1.5 million of tons in 2021. 70% of this demand is concentrated in 7 countries (USA, India, China, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Netherlands).
So Morocco is producing more and more almonds that are not exported and still imports large amounts of this product. This is a tragedy that affects smallholder farmers whose income is directly affected, as they can no longer find outlets for their production.
On the other hand, the Californian product constitutes nearly 75% of the almonds consumed worldwide. It is standard, predictable and can be up to 10 MAD/kg cheaper than the Moroccan almond. When the Moroccan almond is grown with very low inputs (irrigation, fertilizers, crop protection,…)
Moroccan almond growers are mostly smallholder farmers, geographically dispersed and with traditional farming operations. In these conditions, Moroccan almonds struggle to be price competitive against its American industrial alter ego.
Pastries and bakeries are the main market for almonds in Morocco, they recognize Moroccan almond is tastier but prefer to buy imported almonds because they are cheaper with a reliable quality. Farmers perceive their product is not competitive enough, but their selling price today is not sufficient for them.
Because of the stretched agriculture value chain, farmers do not capture the added value nor the information from the market and its dynamics. So they cannot adapt their product to the local and international requirements
But if the Californian almond is eating the world and our local product is snubbed, is it still worth it to grow this commodity?