Morocco may grow less than forecast, say planners

Reuters , Thursday 3 Mar 2011

A shortfall in economic growth is likely despite a strong cereals harvest, Moroccan planners have revealed


Morocco is likely to harvest seven million tons of cereals this year which would help the economy grow by 4.6 per cent, the state's High Planning Commission (HCP) said Wednesday, below the five per cent forecast in the budget.

The HCP said in a report the seven million ton forecast for the harvest "looks realistic" given the prevailing weather conditions.

But a harvest of nine million tonnes will be needed to enable the North African country to post economic growth of 5.1 per cent, it added. The HCP estimated the $90 billion economy to have gained 3.3 per cent in 2010 versus 4.9 per cent in 2009.

Excluding the primary sector, which groups agriculture and fisheries, the economy expanded five per cent in 2010.

Bad weather cut the cereals harvest to 7.46 million tons in 2010 from a record 10.2 million tons the previous year.

In a Reuters interview Monday, Finance and Economy Minister Salaheddine Mezouar maintained a four per cent growth forecast for 2010 and said a final figure would be announced this month.

Agriculture is the country's biggest employer, with nearly 35 per cent of its total workforce in the sector, but the majority of cereal-planted areas are small properties owned by subsistence farmers.

The HCP said it expects foreign demand for Moroccan goods to rise six per cent in 2011, down from an eight per cent increase in 2010 and after an 11 per cent drop in 2009 in the midst of the global economic slowdown. The European Union is Morocco's main trading partner.

The budget deficit, the HCP said, looks set to reach 3.6 per cent of 2011 GDP, down from 4.2 per cent in 2010. The Ministry of Finance and Economy expects the budget deficit to reach 3.5 per cent in 2011, including privatisation receipts.

The trade deficit looks set to account for 11.6 per cent of the country's GDP in 2011, up from 10.3 per cent in 2010, the HCP said, amid a surge in prices for oil and grain, both of which the country imports heavily.

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