Delaware Online/The News Journal, by Cori Anne Natoli (Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 20, 2012) — As a symbol of a growing global economic partnership, Gov. Jack Markell and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., welcomed Ambassador Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Port of Wilmington Monday morning.
In a chilly depot on the pier, officials gathered to greet the dignitary at a ceremony beyond the U.S. Customs and Border guards, backed by seemingly countless crates of freshly “imported from Morocco” palettes of clementines – the smallest of Mandarin oranges.
“It’s a great honor to be here today to welcome the arrival of these clementines and to celebrate the increasingly strong partnership, a partnership this shipment symbolizes, between Morocco and the United States,” Bouhlal said.
Clementine cargo from Morocco brings in $5.6 million annually for the port and is tied to 100 jobs, officials said. Even more appealing, the previous season – late October 2011 to February 2012 – brought in a 114 percent increase over the previous year with 22,964 tons arriving at the port.
“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to thank Ambassador Bouhlal and the team from Fresh Fruit Maroc [leading Moroccan consortium of exporters],” Markell said. “Our trade with Morocco is thriving and I look forward to continuing our partnership, creating jobs and keeping Americans supplied with healthy produce all winter.”
The trade partnership was inaugurated in 2000, and Fresh Fruit Maroc and growers shipped more than 242,000 pallets of clementines, representing more than $345 million in commercial value, according to Coons’ office.
Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, champions the cultivation of trade relations and recognizes each as key to growing the state’s economy.
From Delaware, Moroccan clementines can reach more than 200 million North Americans in less than 24 hours, said Alan B. Levin, chairman of the Diamond State Port Corp., which owns and operates the 308-acre port. Levin, who also is director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, cited innovations and efficiency as the key drivers to the import growth.