The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has announced that the government of Morocco has chosen – in a competitive and transparent bidding process – a private partner for the planned public private partnership (PPP) irrigation project in the citrus-growing area of Guerdane, Taroudant province. Surface water is urgently needed for irrigated citrus farming in the 10,000 hectare Guerdane perimeter, which depends largely on the extraction of rapidly diminishing groundwater supplies drawn up from the Souss basin.
The bid for the Guerdane PPP irrigation project was won by a consortium led by Omnium Nord-Africain (ONA), a Moroccan industrial conglomerate. Other members of the consortium include Morocco’s Caisse de D´t et Gestion, France’s Compagnie Nationale d’Amnagement de la Rgion du Bas-Rhne et du Languedoc, and Infrastructure Development and Management, an Austrian firm.
The Guerdane project is the first PPP irrigation project in the world. IFC – with the support of a technical assistance grant from France’s FASEP – provided the government with advice on structuring and implementing the Guerdane PPP irrigation project to deliver a high-quality, accountable and financially and environmentally sustainable public service to end-users.
As part of its contractual obligations, the ONA-led consortium will enter into a 30-year concession for the construction, co-financing, and management of an irrigation network. The network will channel water from a dam complex, located some 40 miles from Guerdane, to some 600 citrus farmers. The Guerdane irrigation project will cost an estimated at US$85mn to build, of which the Moroccan government will provide around US$50mn – half as a loan and half in grant form.
Bids by the various consortia for the Guerdane PPP irrigation centered on providing the most competitive water tariff structure for end-users. The tariff structure submitted by the ONA-led consortium is significantly lower than the price that citrus farmers in Guerdane typically pay for irrigated groundwater supplies.
As Morocco has suffered from recurrent and persistent drought, the contractual documents for the Guerdane PPP irrigation project were structured so as to fairly share the main project risk – consistent water supply – amongst the private investor, the government, and the end-users. The tender was also tailored to promote the participation of Moroccan companies in the bidding process. The outcome therefore heralds the creation of Morocco’s first ever domestic private infrastructure operator.
Hassan Benabderrazik, general secretary of the Moroccan ministry of agriculture, expressed great satisfaction with the outcome of the bidding process, saying, “By bringing in the private sector, Morocco will benefit from the integration of capital and management expertise from the private operator, which should produce cost-reducing efficiency in this public-private partnership.”
He adds, “Competition and transparency helped the government secure a highly-competitive tariff for the end-user of the project – and indeed local farmers have told the ministry that they are highly satisfied with the result.”
Bernard Sheahan, IFC director for Advisory Services, notes that, “A high level of competition and transparency has been maintained throughout the process, with a positive outcome for the government and the farmers. The Moroccan authorities should be praised for their strong commitment to making this project succeed.”
Sami Haddad, IFC director for Middle East and North Africa, adds, “It is estimated that more than 100,000 people earn their living, either directly or indirectly, from citrus farming in the Guerdane perimeter, which is noteworthy for its dynamism, high-level of productivity and innovation in the commercialization of citrus production to both local and external markets. The success of the bidding process for the Guerdane PPP irrigation project sets a worldwide precedent for future irrigation investments in a very difficult global environment”.