Dirafrost Morocco Plant Ready for Strawberry Processing
With the frozen strawberry campaign in Morocco scheduled to end in late February, the Dirafrost factory in Larache is preparing to process the harvest. Cold weather during the last 10 days of January delayed production as berries ripened more slowly than usual, which should be positive for sweetness of the fruit.
Every year strawberry plants are imported by Moroccan growers, mostly from Spain, for cultivation across approximately 3,000 hectares of farmland. This usually amounts to plus or minus 50,000 plants, each of which is has the potential to yield 900 grams of berries.
There has been a shift in the spread of different strawberry varieties bound for the frozen fruit processing industry. Traditionally, Camarossa was preferred for frozen processing. However, in recent years its volume usage decreased in favor of Sabrina (32% of the total surface) and San Andreas (15%) varieties. Sabrina is currently the most popular, due to its flavor appeal and high yield per plant. Camarossa, which typically bears large and firm fruit and now only accounts for 7% of the total surface, is largely utilized during the beginning of the season for the production of cubes.
Of course it is wise to utilize a mix of varieties that peak at different times. This generally guarantees constant supply throughout the entire processing season, which runs from March until June.
Upon reviewing figures for the past two seasons, one sees that the frozen segment has continued to rise as a percentage of total strawberry production in Morocco. In 2015-16 frozen product accounted for 76% of the strawberry market, compared to 63.1%% during the 2014-15 season.
Strawberries remain the most important item in the Moroccan red fruit sector. However, the evolution of acreage spread of red fruits shows a slight decline for strawberry plants (now 52% of all acreage vs. 62% during the previous season). Meanwhile, acreage devoted to blueberries has risen from 14% to 23%.
“We are seeing more demand for frozen strawberries from Morocco by countries like Japan and the USA,” said a spokesman in the Herk-de-Stad, Belgium office of Dirafrost. “The reason is that Morocco is a long-term stable supplier, with constant product available between March and June thanks to the country’s big farms of 100 to 200 hectares.”
The spokesman added that while Polish Senga strawberries have a very good taste profile, the short crop period of two weeks and the smaller size of five to ten hectare farms in Poland means that “both supply and prices are much more volatile.”
A member of the Austrian Agrana Group, Dirafrost operates production plants in Serbia and Belgium as well as in Morocco, and is a major supplier of frozen red fruit, including raspberries, to European foodservice, retail and industrial markets. The company’s vast sourcing area of 96,580 hectares of fertile fields typically harvests enough fruit to yield 28,000 tons of finished product per annum.