WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Morocco’s wheat production is forecast to decline from 3.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 2.8 million tonnes in 2016-17 and barley output is expected to fall from 1 million tonnes to 900,000 tonnes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a June 18 report. The decline in total production is about 66% lower compared to the previous year due to the severe drought during the entire planting season. 

The report’s estimate in March assumed a somewhat normal rainfall during the spring time (March-April) which was not the case in some key production areas: Chaouia (Settat), Khouribga, Safi, El Jadida. As a result, most of the fields that were planted late (December/January), suffered dramatically from the lack of rain during the spring and were not able to yield any production, and many farmers converted to sunflower instead of soft wheat, the report said.

Official figures from the Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that wheat and barley production is  the lowest since the market year 2006-07. Inadequate rainfall during the planting season and the shortage of rain during the critical months of February and March account for most of the drop in the area planted and in production, especially in the central and southern parts of Morocco.

On Jan. 2, the Moroccan government launched an Anti-Drought Emergency Program by which the government makes subsidized barley available to farmers in hard hit areas at fixed prices of $210 per tonne. The government will also support the transport of this commodity to remote areas.

On June 10, the Moroccan government announced that it will raise the custom duty on soft wheat imports to 65% from 30% from June 15 to Aug. 15. The aim is to stabilize prices at $290-$296 and ensure adequate supplies to the domestic market and protect the local harvest.

Imports of barley and other feed grains should be significantly higher this year because of generally poor pasture conditions and shortage of adequate feed grain supply. Morocco has some 17 million head of sheep, 6.2 million goats, and 3.2 million of cattle.