Morocco wheat harvest seen falling to near 3 mln T
Friday, 27 April 2012 | 11:00
Morocco's wheat harvest should stand at around 3 million tonnes this year, including 2 million tonnes of soft wheat, down sharply from a year earlier, the head of the country's agriculture industry group said.
This would mean that wheat imports may rise by 50 percent from their level during the ongoing import calendar year, which starts in June and ends in May of the following year. Bread and semolina are the staples for Morocco's 34-million population.
Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said the cereals harvest should reach 4.8 million tonnes this year, above the most recent forecasts but far below last year's level and the crop budget for 2012, due to bad weather.
Akhannouch did not give a breakdown per variety for the harvest.
A year earlier, Morocco produced 8.4 million tonnes of cereals in 2011, including 4.17 million of soft wheat, 1.85 million of durum wheat and 2.34 million of barley.
Ahmed Ouayach, who heads the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture, told Reuters Akhannouch's forecast means that the wheat harvest would stand at 3 million tonnes, including 2 million tonnes of soft wheat and 2 million tonnes of barley.
"The ratio of distribution between the three types of cereals cultivated in Morocco is 40 percent for soft wheat, 40 percent for barley and 20 percent for durum wheat," Ouayach said on the sidelines of an agriculture fair in the northern city of Meknes.
"This is a very average harvest," he added.
A senior official, familiar with the local cereals industry, said around half of the country's soft wheat harvest ends up in the "formal distribution chain" while the other half is consumed by growers due to predominant subsistence and rudimentary farming.
"For durum wheat, the whole production is consumed by growers," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The latest available import data from state-run grains authority ONICL, shows that Morocco imported 2.44 million tonnes of wheat, including 1.96 million tonnes of soft wheat, in the 10 months to the end-March, 2012.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected Morocco's wheat import needs to exceed 5 million tonnes this year from 3.2 million tonnes for the previous campaign. Barley imports are projected to almost double to 1 million tonnes.
The finance ministry has revised down its economic growth projections for 2012 to between 3 and 4 percent versus the 4.2 percent outlined in the budget due to the impact of bad weather on agriculture and amid financial trouble in the euro zone, Rabat's main business partner.
Agriculture in Morocco, one of the world's biggest cereal importers, relies heavily on rain with the bulk of irrigated areas owned by big landholders.
The agriculture ministry estimates that the sector generates 20 percent of the country's Gross Domestis Product and employs 45 percent of the 11-million active population.
Some 5.3 million hectares of land are farmed by some 1.4 million Moroccans, the ministry says.
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