Focus on Morocco

by Chris Lyddon
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2016-17 has been a poor year for Moroccan grain production.
Morocco is a major wheat importer, particularly as its location and climate mean that its own production levels are highly variable.

2016-17 has been a poor year for Moroccan grain production. The International Grains Council (IGC) put its total crop at 3.6 million tonnes, compared with 11.7 million in 2015-16. The wheat crop is put at 2.7 million tonnes, down from 8.1 million. Barley production, in contrast, is unchanged at 2.4 million tonnes.

Morocco is also a producer of durum wheat, with the crop at 900,000 tonnes in 2016-17, down from 2.4 million the year before.

According to the IGC, Morocco will import a total of 8 million tonnes of grain in 2016-17, up from 7.3 million in 2015-16. Wheat imports are forecast at 4.7 million tonnes, up from 4.3 million. Maize imports are seen unchanged at 2.1 million tonnes. Barley imports are put at 1.2 million tonnes in 2016-17, up from 800,000 a year earlier. Morocco is also forecast to import 850,000 tonnes of durum wheat, up from 810,000 in 2015-16.

The IGC forecasts better conditions for the 2017-18 crop.

“Conditions across North Africa’s winter grain areas are much improved compared to last year, particularly in Morocco, with drought mostly alleviated by widespread rains,” it said, forecasting a 42.9% increase in harvested area, from 2.1 million to 3 million tonnes.

In September, an attaché report described the Moroccan government’s actions to deal with the lower crop and what had caused it.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
“The decline in production was due to poor rains that delayed planting activities, reduced the area sown and significantly lowered yields throughout most of the grain producing regions,” it explained.

“In an effort to head off rising wheat prices and avoid possible shortages, the Government of Morocco (GOM) lowered import tariff on common wheat from 75% to 30% in late 2015,” the report said. “This move served to keep domestic prices at around 2,588 MAD ($263) per tonne. In order to secure adequate wheat supply, while at the same time keeping imports in check, Morocco has increased import tariffs to 65%, as of June 15, 2016. This move aims to safeguard local industry and keep consumer prices unchanged. In an effort to encourage local wheat production and increase local supply, the GOM has also been working to increase the quantity of land under irrigation as well as expanding access to crop insurance among farmers, and preserving seeds that will be provided to farmers for the next growing season.”

The attaché took a broader view in an annual report published earlier in the year.

“Grain production continues to depend heavily on rainfall because most of the production is rainfed,” the attaché said. “Moroccan rainfall is known for its wide fluctuations and has recorded extreme variations in recent years with no clear trends. These fluctuations considerably impact forage and grain supplies and ultimately the Moroccan economy.”