The FINANCIAL — Fields of citrus fruits enjoy Morocco’s year-round sunshine and extend across the country. One of the stand out small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within this industry is Citruma, a local company that makes fruit juices and frozen concentrate for sale at home and abroad.
Citruma makes Marrakesh, one of the best known brands in Moroccan fruit juice. Its juice is to be found being served on the national airline, Royal Air Maroc, as well as on shelves in supermarkets across the EU and Russia.
Despite operating in a very competitive market domestically, Citruma is an ambitious company with big growth plans, according to EBRD.
“We have a very recognisable brand in Morocco,” said Fodil Cherif, Citruma’s CEO. “We needed to take full advantage of that and move into new products, new formats and expand exports to new markets.
“Beyond that, we also knew that we needed financing to improve our packaging equipment and expand production in general. So we came to the EBRD.”
While in discussions with the EBRD on obtaining financing for the expansion, Citruma also worked with the EBRD’s Small Business Support team through its Advice for Agribusiness Programme. The latter brought in a Dutch agribusiness adviser with more than twenty years of experience in food and liquid processing, in a project funded by the European Union.
The adviser worked with Citruma’s senior management on selecting the right equipment for the new processing lines and on improving efficiency, cutting costs and increasing margins.
“Citruma aims to be a company that competes on quality,” he explained. “So we conducted a series of taste tests among customers and retailers and other market research. We created detailed questionnaires for both consumers and retailers.
“We wanted to be sure that Citruma’s products matched what consumers were looking for and understand how to better position them in the market. We also worked on widening the business’ export strategy – including not only expanding exports to the European Union, but also exploring export alternatives Citruma had never considered, like the USA and West Africa.”
The expert also suggested a whole new avenue for Citruma: clementines. Citruma had traditionally concentrated on orange juice; they had never considered clementines, which are cheap, widely available and easy to blend for juice.
With the adviser’s help, Citruma has launched a new range of clementine juice, which is selling well domestically and abroad. They have also introduced a 200ml format for their juice boxes, a new offering to the market.
The EBRD provided €3.6 million in mezzanine finance to Citruma in the first deal of its kind for the EBRD in Morocco.
“Citruma is a very interesting story. It was the first project the EBRD did in agribusiness with a local company in Morocco,” explains Gilles Mettetal, EBRD Director for Agribusiness. “And it was mezzanine finance, a quasi-equity financing product that is very flexible and useful particularly for SMEs. Combining this with the technical assistance is a good demonstration of what the Bank can offer SMEs.”
A year and a half later, Citruma has reached double digit revenues for the first time and has launched a range of new products. Citruma is just one of the SMEs the Bank is helping through its Small Business Initiative.
With the support of the EBRD, Citruma is now one of the top three brands in Morocco in its sector – and they’re bringing Moroccan sunshine to supermarkets around the world!