Morocco predicts near-record cereal harvest in 2017
Agriculture accounts for more than 15% of Morocco’s gross domestic product.
Triple output. A Moroccan woman separates the wheat from the chaff at a grain market in Rabat. (AFP)
2017/04/23 Issue: 103 Page: 18
The Arab Weekly
Meknes - Morocco expects its cereal harvest to hit 10.2 million tonnes, about triple the previous season and close to 2015’s record, thanks to abundant rainfall, Moroccan Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said.
Akhannouch said production of common wheat was expected to total 5 million tonnes with 3 million tonnes of barley and 2.3 million tonnes of durum wheat anticipated to be harvested.
Agriculture accounts for more than 15% of Morocco’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 40% of the workforce. Officials raised the customs duty on soft wheat imports to 75% from 17.5% in 2015 to protect the local harvest.
The Moroccan government expects the country’s GDP to grow 4.5% in 2017, up from less than 2% in 2016 after the worst drought in decades cut its cereal harvest to 3.35 million tonnes last year, down 70% from 2015’s record 11 million tonnes.
Morocco is one of the world’s biggest cereal importers. A decrease in cereal imports would help its trade balance. Compared to 2015, the trade deficit rose 19.6% to $18.4 billion in 2016, due partly to wheat imports.
Akhannouch said that the Green Morocco Plan (PMV) has led to the creation of more than 300,000 farms, raising the number to 1.8 million.
“A significant improvement in the mechanisation of Moroccan agriculture was recorded, reaching 8.03 tractors per 1,000 hectares, instead of 4.9 recorded before the implementation of the PMV,” he said.
The PMV, established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, seeks to consolidate successes achieved and to meet new challenges facing Morocco’s competitiveness and opening of markets, the government portal www.invest. gov.ma stated.
Akhannouch made his statement about the expected harvest at a conference on the sidelines of the International Agricultural Fair of Meknes (SIAM). More than 1,200 exhibitors from 66 countries took part in the 12th SIAM, which was organised under the theme “Agribusiness and sustainable agricultural value chains.”
The fair has become an international business hub, making Morocco one of the flagship destinations of continental and international agriculture and agro-industry.
Guinean President Alpha Condé, the event’s guest of honour, told the conference that Morocco’s return to the African Union “will make a remarkable contribution to this exhilarating undertaking of solidarity among the African peoples.”
Condé hailed Morocco’s efforts to develop its vital agricultural sector.
“The example of Morocco will serve to convince certain African countries that the development of our countries, whatever their richness in raw minerals, necessarily goes through the development of our agriculture,” he said.
“These meetings symbolise the efforts of a sister country to strengthen South-South and inter- African cooperation in order to achieve sustainable development of agriculture and food security in Africa and around the world.”
Morocco’s leading telecom operator Itissalat Al Maghrib (Maroc Telecom) during SIAM proposed the rental of agricultural equipment.
Brahim Boudaoud, marketing director for Itissalat Al Maghrib, said the company offers an online solution at www.souk-e.ma that allows farmers to rent agricultural equipment, look for a profile or sell crops.
The website can be downloaded as a mobile app on smartphones.
“Our solutions are a tradition at SIAM. They aim to accompany the sector. Some, such as the one relating to soil moisture and its irrigation needs, are in great demand,” said Boudaoud.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) signed three cooperation agreements with the Moroccan government at SIAM. The agreements, which touch rural, agricultural and food development sectors, set out priorities for cooperation between the Moroccan government and FAO.