The trials and tribulations of farming ganja safely in North Africa.
Making stacks of money growing weed in Morocco is not as easy as it used to be. The era when Moroccan farmers could sell tons of heavily seeded, poor quality cannabis has largely disappeared. The main local and European export markets demand much better these days. And then there are the age-old challenges of evading or bribing the law enforcement officials. Not to mention the local criminal gangs that specialize in cannabis crop thieving.
Seed Stockers sell feminized autoflower and photoperiod cannabis seeds in quantities from 1 seed to 20,000. Recently we have been selling quite a few seeds to Moroccan farmers who have stepped up their efforts to match European cannabis quality levels. We accompanied one of our customers, Mehdi, back to Morocco to see what it’s like growing ganja for a living.
Mehdi explained the biggest challenges in getting a crop safely through to harvest.
“Usually the cannabis varieties are ready around the end of September. Without water everything dies in these hills during the summer, but with water the best European varieties reach 2-3 meters tall. A field of them is easy to see. The Police sometimes come and check during September, but they have limited funds for small farmers like me. A bribe is always a possibility, but better still is the chance to harvest before the Police visit. Autos are perfect for this. The bigger problem is the local bandits that roam the hills at night in September looking for plantations. If your fields are not guarded with men and dogs, a gang of them can strip a field in one night”
The Moroccan weed quality challenge.
Moroccan weed used to be smuggled into Europe in massive quantities, either by boat or vehicle/ferry, but since the European markets have become accustomed to high quality locally grown weed, demand for Moroccan produce has dwindled significantly. This is largely due to the lower standards of outdoor Moroccan grown cannabis compared to the more professionally grown European ganja. In order for a Moroccan weed farmer to once again make a good living from weed they need to take their quality levels up significantly. That means no more heavily seeded crops, and improved seed genetics.
Farming better quality cannabis.
The progressive Moroccan cannabis farmers buy their seeds in Europe rather than on the local African market where quality standards can be minimal. Local Moroccan cannabis seed is usually saved from the previous year’s crop, but with no focus on breeding/genetics the quality levels are poor/medium at best. Seed Stockers sell feminized seeds in bulk, with some customers buying several thousand seeds at a time. Starting with better quality seeds is just half the story, growing conditions also need to be optimized
Improving soil quality and water delivery in the Moroccan hills.
Soil tends to be sandy and low in mineral content in the hills of Morocco. But few farmers can afford to buy new top soil. The smart farmer works out how to improve soil quality for minimum cost. Mehdi’s team use a drilling device called an auger to drill a plant hole around 50cm wide and a meter deep.
Mehdi explained the benefits of growing autoflower seeds, he is now in his second year growing Seed Stockers autoflower seeds. “We germinate the seeds and keep them inside for a week under fluorescent tubes until they are strong. While this happens my boys in the field drill the holes for each plant. Fertilizer pellets are added to each hole along with the original soil. The hole is soaked with water the same day that the seedling is planted. Water is supplied each day by normal feeding hose. The plants take 3 months before they are ready, with the old varieties it took 6 months.”
Many of the younger Moroccans have visited nearby Spain, and its enviable collection of Cannabis Social Clubs and the quality of the best Barcelona Social Club weed is tough to beat. Many returning Moroccan cannabis lovers knew that the quality benchmark in Europe had been moved up a level. That has forced the Moroccan cannabis farmers to find cheap ways to improve soil quality/fertility and many of them bulk-purchase cannabis seeds from European suppliers. Quality feminized seeds cost around a Euro per seed when bought by the thousand from bulk suppliers like Seed Stockers.
Mehdi explained more about his new approach.
“The harvest quality is far higher than our fathers could manage to grow – these really are sweet sticky buds. There is no need to make hash from this as the quality is there to begin with. The locals love my weed. We harvest the autoflower seeds in July. The thieves are not even out in the fields at this time. I could run two or three harvests each year. But with one crop I feel safe – we are not pushing our luck too much. Each crop takes 3 months from planting the seedlings to harvest. I have my products on market before the Police have even come round asking for their money. The local thieves are busy looking for fields of tall plants from September onwards, no-one gives a second glance at my field of short autos in May or June. In Morocco, autoflowers are still not so well known by the thieves and their dear brothers in the Police.”
One way around the quality conundrum for the producers of low quality Moroccan brick weed has always been to make hash from it. And indeed that remains the way many of them operate. But with poor base genetics and inefficient hash making techniques, the hash-makers of Morocco now earn less per acre than the modern farmers specializing in growing quality buds.
Recently, talk has intensified about the idea of Morocco legalizing production of cannabis and becoming a regional hub for large scale cannabis production. The climate is perfect, the valley soil is fertile and the region has a long heritage of cannabis farming and, with some assistance from modern farming technology, alongside quality genetics, there is no reason why Morocco couldn’t become synonymous with premium quality cannabis produce once again.
By Mischa – Seed Stockers
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 137