Morocco's cereal sown areas surge amid more rain

Reuters, Thursday 20 Jan 2011

Planting area grew by 62 per cent to 3.7 million hectares, but only 53 per cent of 2010's domestic yield made it to Morocco's market

(Photo: Reuters)

Morocco's cereal-planted areas were 62 per cent above their level a year earlier in mid-December, while the amount of rainfall surged by almost as much, the central bank said.

Cereal-planted areas reached 3.7 million hectares against 2.3 million hectares the previous year, Bank al-Maghrib said in a report. The amount of rainfall by mid-December was 57 per cent above its level a year earlier, the bank added.

Seeds sales rose by just 2.4 per cent to 104,300 tonnes, however, while Moroccan farmers increased their fertilizer purchases by 27 per cent up to the same date, the bank said.

Morocco's cereal farming season starts in September and ends in June the following year.

The world's tenth-biggest wheat importer, Morocco saw its harvest last year cut by bad weather to 7.46 million tonnes from a record 10.2 million tonnes the year before. The latest harvest included 3.2 million tonnes of soft wheat against 4.3 million tonnes the previous year.

Since the vast majority of wheat-planted areas are small properties owned by farmers who use the harvest for their own subsistence, only 1.69 million tonnes -- or 53 per cent of the 2010 soft wheat harvest -- had been sent to market by the end of 2010, according to state cereal agency ONICL's latest statistics.

Morocco subsidises flour among other staples such as cooking oil, sugar and gas.
The state spent about 30 billion dirhams ($3.6 billion) in 2010 to subsidise such products for the country's population of 32 million. The figure is close to the kingdom's budget deficit at end-November.

ONICL introduced a compensation system earlier this month for importers of milling soft wheat until mid-April to keep supplies stable after a surge in grain prices.

Morocco's soft milling wheat imports jumped more than fourfold in the seven months to 31 December, to 1.25 million tonnes versus 0.3 million tonnes a year earlier, according to ONICL.

That meant Morocco had imported almost all the soft wheat it had planned to buy from abroad before end-2010, or 1.2 million tonnes of soft milling wheat, between 16 September and 31 December.

Morocco's grain import season starts in June and ends in May of the following year.

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