According to figures released by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US department of agriculture, Morocco's citrus production for the 2001-02 season is forecast to increase by 20 per cent on last year.

Volumes are expected to recover to 1.19million tonnes as the alternate bearing nature of the trees swings back towards volume production this season. Good weather conditions during fruit set and moderate temperatures during the summer have also helped ensure a larger number of fruits on the trees.

Most of the increase in production is in easy peelers, which were harder hit by the alternate bearing phenomenon last season. But low rainfall levels in October and so far in November mean that early varieties are available in smaller sizes. As a result, product meeting export specifications is likely to be reduced.

The extremely dry conditions have become a feature of Moroccan citrus production over the past three seasons and the USDA expresses concern in its report for the future of many citrus orchards, particularly in the Souss area around Agadir on the south-west coast.

These ongoing dry conditions mean that many growers are nervous of renewing their orchards, despite government incentives announced last season.