WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Morocco’s total grain production is estimated to be around 4.7 million tonnes including 3.7 million tonnes of common and durum wheat and 1 million tonnes of barley, the  U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service said in a March 30 report. The fall in grain production is mainly due to unfavorably dry and hot conditions during crop establishment in many production areas, as well as a smaller planted area and lower anticipated yields. The area planted this year is around 3.2 million hectare, with about 47% of soft wheat, 18% of durum wheat and 35% of barley. With this year’s drought, wheat imports are expected to start earlier this year.

Grain production continues to depend heavily on rainfall, because most of the production is rainfed. 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. On Jan. 29, the Moroccan government committed more than 5 billion Moroccan dirhams ($520 million) to what they call an anti-drought plan, aimed at supporting the agriculture sector against the effects of late rains.

The stocks of cereals held by operators and reported to the Moroccan Cereals Office (ONICL) reached about 1.34 million tonnes at the first of January, of which 1.23 million tonnes was common wheat. About 56% of Morocco’s total stock was made up of local wheat as of January. The 56% represents 760,000 tonnes of bread wheat, 105,000 tonnes of durum wheat, and the rest is corn at 375,000 tones. This stock will cover domestic demand only through the end of March, and consequently imports will rise. With the dry conditions, importers anticipate the imports to be between 3.8 million tonnes and 4 million tonnes of bread wheat.

Morocco relies heavily on wheat imports to cover its consumption needs. Morocco’s cereal imports in market year 2016-17 are forecast at 4.6 million tonnes, with wheat imports estimated at 3.9 million tonnes and barley imports estimated at 700,000 tonnes. E.U. and Black Sea countries supply most of the common wheat, while Canada is the traditional supplier of durum wheat.