Blueberry grower-exporter African Blue has opened a new packhouse in Morocco to serve markets including the European Union, the U.K., Russia and Asia, as it continues its expansion.
The company, in which Australia's leading produce company Costa Group holds a majority stake, recently inaugurated 10,000-square-meter facility in Larache, making it the largest berry packing facility servicing the European market.
The plant has been designed to handle seasonal capacity of up to 12,000 metric tons of blueberries and is capable of processing 150MT per day.
Costa Berry International general manager Peter McPherson, who is in Morocco for the opening, said this was another major investment by Costa Group in Morocco through its majority-owned companies African Blue and Sweet Berry.
“This facility will enhance the quality and reputation of Costa Group’s world leading blueberry genetics, which have been grown in Morocco for over a decade,” said McPherson.
“The blueberry varieties that we grow give us a distinct competitive advantage in the United Kingdom, European Union and Russia as we are able to deliver a premium fresh product into those markets.”
African Blue general manager Avi Wizman said around 200 people attended the opening, including Australia’s first Ambassador to Morocco, Berenice Owen-Jones, government officials, customers, clients and service providers.
The opening coincided with a visit to Australia by Aziz Akhannouch, Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests, who toured one of Costa’s berry farms in Corindi, New South Wales, to gain an insight into the Australian operations.
Costa acquired a majority ownership stake in African Blue in late 2017. The Morocco production area is 294 hectares, with supply from an additional 108 hectares from licensed third-party growers. Further development is currently being undertaken to extend the length of the season including plantings at Agadir located on the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to the Moroccan operations, Costa operates three berry farms in China with more than 100 hectares.