Watermelon has long been cultivated in Morocco, its cultivation over the last 50 years has followed a steady upward trend in terms of area, total tonnage or yields, benefiting from important technological advances (grafting, drip irrigation). In addition, it has a high nutritional value. Indeed, the watermelon is rich in Vitamins and minerals and can even be used for medicinal purposes.
In Morocco, watermelon is grown in the central and southern regions of Morocco with concentration in the Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz region (37%) and Souss Massa (19%). However, the highest yields are recorded in the Gharb region due to its water availability and favorable soil and climate characteristics. In the Gharb region, yields exceed 60 t/ha (national average estimated at 40t/ha).
Watermelon sowing starts from the end of January-beginning of February in the warm temperature areas of Morocco (Souss, Haouz), followed by the other regions until the month of March. Growing watermelon requires high temperatures, compared to melon and zucchini. It also requires moisture and light.
Watermelon usually grows along watercourses given that regular watering is highly recommended to obtain a good yield. To maximise their harvest, farmers need to carry out certain tasks(weeding, harrowing) at key points in time.
Harvesting: Commences in the beginning of July for the lucky ones, during August for the others. The watermelon is ripe when the underside changes from white to rich yellow, as to the tendrils and leaves, they must be dried out. Once picked, the watermelons are kept in a dry place.
Watermelon varieties: There are two groups of watermelon varieties. The ones with seeds, they are the most popular and most available in Morocco and seedless watermelons, less present in Morocco.
Moroccan imports of watermelons are very limited and do not exceed 160 tons annually. As for exports, it is among the products having achieved the best export performance in 2017. Watermelons and melons have indeed generated a turnover of 1.3 billion DH for a volume sold of 195,600 tons. That’s 84% more than in 2016 in value and 64% in quantity. Morocco is particularly active in five markets in Europe: France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
Faicel El Kherchi.