Keys to Morocco’s boom in berries

Partida Logistic Álvaro Partida

Partida Logistics emphasises the “unconditional support” by the Moroccan Government to the companies and investments such as the Dakhla Atlantic port and the West Africa Customs-free Zone.

In recent years Spanish raspberry production has dropped due to the production boom in Morocco. A phenomenon that has been added to the fast-moving diversification of Moroccan crops. “A decade ago, Morocco was virtually only growing tomatoes and today, they produce the entire shopping basket and they export to many countries in Europe, the United Kingdom, Russia, USA and Canada, amongst others,” comments Álvaro Partida, Head of the Brexit Department at Partida Logistics. At the Customs Agency, they have been working with, and observing, Morocco from a privileged position for many years: the Port of Algeciras.

More infrastructures and facilities

The lower cost of labour, the favourable weather conditions for crops and the “unconditional support by the government to promote the sector and create jobs” have lead companies from Spain, Holland, Germany, Portugal and many more to establish themselves on Moroccan soil for some time now. The latest movement by the Moroccan Government occurred last October, when it announced the building of a desalination plant to irrigate 5,000 hectares of crops in the Sahara. Additionally, it will start up two logistics platforms, 35 hectares each, a wind farm of 900 megawatts, the Dakhla Atlantic Port and the West Africa Customs-free Zone, attached to the port. “It is logical for companies from any country to feel attracted by these opportunities and the production capacity for any agricultural produce,” Partida affirms.

The Algeciras Connection

The Algeciras port platform enjoys geographical proximity, a constant exchange of goods of all types and “magnificent institutional relations” between Morocco and Spain.

The Port and the many local companies that supply direct and auxiliary services to logistics are strongly linked to the activity with Morocco. And in the case of Partida Logistics, the operations with Morocco have an impact of 65% on their activity.

“We have departments of import, export, transit, BIP, ADR (dangerous goods) and live animals, all focused on the customs procedures and logistic support. This huge amount of movement of goods requires schedules (we are operational 24/7/365), a large amount of staff and IT tools. The Port of Algeciras, Customs, healthcare, phytosanitary and veterinarian organisms work from Monday to Sunday and they are the only ones in Spain working with these characteristics.”

Flexibility for maximum freshness

The logistics chain of perishable produce requires an exhaustive attention, long working schedules and a solid coordination between all the organisations involved. Tasks that take on special importance for produce as delicate as red berries. Their arrival in perfect conditions at their destination depends to a large extent on the work carried out at the source: packaging, wrapping, palletisation, labelling, product quality and above all, the correct issuing of the documentation (commercial invoices, phytosanitary certificates, CMRs…). If these tasks start off with some kind of incidence or mistake, it is very likely to cause delays and additional costs, Álvaro Partida indicates. “Our recommendation for exporters, transporters and importers is to share the information and documentation as soon as possible to verify the documents beforehand, with the aim of starting the procedures with the customs agents without delay, both at the ports of exit and entry of the goods.”

A very positive 2021

Last year was “very positive” for Partida Logistics. “We improved on the 2020 figures, in spite of the difficulties that we all know about.” And after 2 years running of episodes such as the epidemic, the shipping traffic crisis, the rise in prices of supplies, the transporter strikes, Brexit and the speeded-up digitalisation (which was also long-awaited by the sector), they continue getting ready for what this year could bring.

“The changes that have occurred in the logistics sector have motivated us to keep up a professional, flexible level of service, optimising the resources and training the staff in each department. We continue to invest in IT to gain access to the latest work tools, which help us to take control over the administrative and operational volume.”

The task for 2022 will be to “maintain the added value that differentiates us and to uphold our sustainable competitive advantages.”

‘Phyto’ certificate for the UK

After being postponed twice (it should have come into effect in April, 2021 and then it was put off again until the 1st of January, 2022), it seems that finally the phytosanitary certificate for exporting fruit and vegetables from the EU to the UK will start to be applied on the 1st of July, 2022. Are the companies ready for this new procedure? Álvaro Partida has his doubts. “We will see what happens between now and July. The companies are ready, but public institutions are not.”

He affirms that, as of today, Spain does not have the necessary personnel or the schedules demanded by the constant exports to the UK. “There are few Phytosanitary offices in Spain that work at the weekend and on Bank Holidays. What will happen? Will the lorries stop from Friday afternoon until Monday when the inspectors come to work and have to process dozens of pending requests?” Partida recalls that the Phytosanitary Certificate will come into effect at the request of the purchasing country, the United Kingdom. And he sets forth the following point: “Should Spain have to pay the additional costs that this procedure will generate in order to not stop the shipments of fruit and vegetables to the UK? It is a highly delicate problem that should be tackled in the very near future, because time is running out and there is no protocol for us, the Customs Agents who process the Certificates and coordinate the physical inspections, to follow.”

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