Morocco predicts near-record cereal harvest in 2017

Sunday 23/04/2017
Triple output. A Moroccan woman separates the wheat from the chaff at a grain market in Rabat. (AFP)

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. 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 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.