Scarce rainfall threatens Moroccan farmers

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Steadily decreasing rainfall in Morocco has citizens worried about this year’s harvest.

For the second month in a row, scarce rainfall in Morocco is raising great concern among economists and farmers, who fear a decline in the crop harvest this summer compared to that of last year. In 2013, 10 million tons of grain were produced, which contributed to a 5% growth in the GDP.

This year, study centers in Morocco lowered growth forecasts by at least one point, given the poor freshwater resources, which fell by half compared to the same period of last year. According to Bank Al-Maghrib, "Grain production is likely to decline by about 20% at least, which would result in a poor growing season … along with the value of financial revenues and rural household consumption."

"The Moroccan economy is expected to record a growth of 2.7%, out of the 4.2% target that was set by the government in the 2014 budget, anticipating a decrease in the … agricultural sector by about 4.5%. Agriculture contributes to 17% of the GDP and a third of the population lives off it, mostly in rural areas," added the bank report.

Morocco had witnessed a similar situation in 2012, when economic growth fell to 2.7% due to lower agricultural output and an increase in food-import prices, adding further burdens on the treasury, which had been already suffering from a shortage of revenue. Analysts believe that the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the future of the agricultural season, and the rate of growth will depend on rainfall.

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The High Commission for Planning (HCP) said that the first quarter of the year will see weak economic growth of about 2.3% instead of the 3.8% recorded during the same period last year. The HCP added that poor rainfall and unfavorable climate conditions were the reasons behind the faltering agricultural season and the cultivated areas being reduced by around 4%, "which predicts that the production rate will not meet the expectations of the government."

Moreover, the HCP predicted that the economy will depend on the sectors of industry and services, which is expected to increase by more than 4%, based on the gradual improvement in production and foreign trade, which was augmented by 4.5% with the increase in demand on the EU markets. Public investments amounting to 186 billion dirhams ($22.6 million) are also expected to compensate for some of the losses in the agricultural sector by providing farmers and the rural population with alternative job opportunities.

According to analysts, the government’s predictions were very optimistic compared to what is happening on the ground. The government expected a growth of 4.2% and a deficit rate of 4.8%, on the basis that agricultural production would reach seven million tons and the price of oil would be $105 per barrel.  

These figures will be hard to achieve, which may exacerbate the budget deficit and reduce food consumption among the poor.

Experts agree that the region of North Africa and the southern Mediterranean has been adversely affected by global climate change over the past two decades. Rainfall has been reduced by 30% to 50%, depending on the area, and by 60% in the southern desert regions.

Climate studies suggest that in the early 1960s, Morocco’s water reserves equalled nearly 3,000 cubic meters per person. These reserves have gradually decreased to less than 1,000 cubic meters per person at the beginning of the 2000s. There are fears that this allocation will become less than 500 cubic meters per person, placing Morocco among the Middle East countries with water problems, after having once been among the countries that enjoy a water surplus. The available water in dams is estimated at 15 billion cubic meters, while agriculture needs average about 20  billion cubic meters.

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Found in: water security, water management, moroccan economy, drought-stricken countries, climate, agriculture
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