MOROCCO – The Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture has been put on the spot after rumors arose regarding the quality of watermelons sold in the country which has supposedly led to the “decline in their fruit exports.

This comes just a few months after Morocco’s National Office of Sanitary Safety of Food Products (ONSSA), a public body responsible for the food safety and compliance of food imported into Morocco, under the supervision of the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries, dismissed similar claims about the quality of watermelons produced in Morocco.

The ministry explained that the various tests conducted by ONSSA, as part of the monitoring plan and control of watermelon during the current campaign year 2021, have revealed the absence of contaminants in this fruit, namely residues of pesticides, heavy metals like lead and cadmium and bacteria such as salmonella and coliforms.

The tests also showed that the fruit is fully compliant with food safety standards.

It also provided statistics of the fruit export market, revealing that a quantity of 218,000 tonnes had been exported to the European Union countries by the month of June contrary to the rumors on sales decline.

Recent data compiled by Hortoinfo, show that Moroccan watermelons are outperforming Algeria’s products in European markets, including in France and the Netherlands.

Morocco’s watermelon exports also shifted from 79.56 million kilograms in 2016 to 241.94 million kilograms in 2020, Hortoinfo indicated.

As noted by Fepex, Spanish imports of Morocco-grown watermelons increased 3 per cent in volume and 27.5 per cent in value through the opening four months of the year.

The statement argued that the EU surveillance system has not reported any non-compliance on Moroccan watermelon exported during the past five years.

“The rumors shared on social networks about the harmfulness of this product are dangerous, irresponsible, and unfounded and are harmful to the production of watermelon crop and to farmers,” the ministry warned.

It stressed that imported seeds are subject to systematic, technical and phytosanitary control at the borders to ensure their qualities.

Watermelons are highly consumed in Morocco during the summer season, but the country also exports a sizable portion of its production.

According to a 2020 study by Agrimaroc, Morocco is the 15th largest producer of watermelons with a volume of more than 742,000 tons.