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February 16, 2010

Morocco's grain harvest ' to slump 30%' this year

Morocco's run of declining grain imports looks likely to end in 2010-11 after inclement weather set back crop plantings, putting a 30% slide in production on the cards.

Rainfall in the North African country, a major wheat importer, fell to 75mm in the first three months of the planting season last year, 60% lower than a year before, when ample moisture put the country on the way to a record 10.2m-tonne grain crop.

Morocco grain plantings for 2010 harvest (year-on-year change)

Non-durum wheat: 1.91 million hect (-4.9%)

Barley: 1.91m hectares (-12.5%)

Durum wheat: 918,200 hectares (-5.2%)

Source: USDA attache report

"Morocco's grain plantings started under unfavourable weather conditions," a report from the US Department of Agriculture's Rabat bureau said.

While rains at the end of last year "significantly improved" crops' prospects, and raised water levels in irrigation reservoirs about that a year ago, flooding damaged 50,000 hectares of grain crops in the north western Gharb region.

Official data showed grain plantings down 8.2% at 4.74m hectares, with barley suffering worst with a 12.5% decline, leaving its area behind that of wheat, excluding durum, the type used in making pasta.

Morocco grain production, 2009-10

Non-durum wheat: 4.3m tonnes

Barley: 3.8m tonnes

Durum wheat: 2.1m tonnes

Total: 10.2m tonnes

Source: USDA attache report

However, analysts are forecasting a slide of 3.0m tonnes in grain production from last year, the report said, a decline reflecting both a return near average yields as well as the reduction in plantings.

A fall of that size appears likely, on calculations, to foster a revival in imports which, for wheat, including durum, have been estimated at 2.1m tonnes for 2009-10, half the level two seasons before.

While the extra production has been expected to allow Morocco to rebuild its all-wheat stocks to 1.6bn tonnes this year, this figure falls significantly short of the 7.5bn tonnes the country consumes a year.

Morocco's bumper durum harvest last year has been cited as a major factor in the slide in global imports which have seen the grain's price underperform that of conventional wheat varieties.


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