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Attending exhibitions like Fruit Attraction has become more difficult for some Moroccan companies

Moroccan exporters unable to attend tradeshows in Europe due to "visa crisis"

The "visa crisis" continues to be a serious hindrance to Moroccan citizens wishing to travel to Europe. A few months ago, intercontinental road carriers were complaining about the difficulty of obtaining visas for truck drivers, which was hampering agricultural exports. Today, the crisis is manifesting itself in another form, as Moroccan executives are unable to get an appointment to submit their visa application.

According to several Moroccan media reports, as well as media specializing in monitoring the Schengen space, illegal middlemen have emerged, lurking online consular services 24/7, booking and reselling appointments at exorbitant prices on the black market. These intermediaries take advantage of an existing shortage of appointments, exacerbated in the summer period by the influx of tourists and students seeking visas, as well as a tense diplomatic context in which Schengen visas are used as a sanctioning tool against Morocco by the French government.

The difficulty, if not impossibility, of booking an appointment to obtain the precious visa prevents Moroccan professionals from taking part in B2B trade and networking events, including major agricultural exhibitions such as the upcoming Fruit Attraction exhibition to be held in Madrid at the beginning of October.

Several Moroccan exporters told FreshPlaza of their dismay. A fresh produce exporter based in northern Morocco said, "This year, we can't attend Fruit Attraction in Madrid due to the chaotic outsourcing of consular services. Getting an appointment to apply for a visa is on the order of impossible, or let's say it's as possible as a thirteenth of the labors of Hercules. We've simply given up taking part in the event, which is very penalizing given that most of our business is with European customers."

Another exporter of fresh produce based in central Morocco testifies: "My visa expired just before the summer period. For the first time since I started my business, I'm going to miss out on participating in Fruit Attraction, and that's the case for many other exporters whose visas have expired. Exhibitors have special procedures through the organizers or chambers of commerce, but this is not the case for all visitors to the exhibition. I chose not to give in to the blackmail of illegal intermediaries and not to seek interventions that shouldn't be necessary for such a basic service."

He adds, "If we can easily replace our usual touristic destinations in Europe, it's not acceptable for us to miss out on important networking and prospecting events such as Fruit Attraction in Madrid or Fruit Logistica in Berlin. Both are must-attend events for agribusiness professionals. Over the past two years, and especially this summer, it has been very difficult to get an appointment with the European consular services for reasons that can't be justified. It takes months to do what used to take just a few days. And yet, Morocco is one of the European Union's leading partners in terms of agricultural exports."