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Drought Lays Bare Morocco’s Vulnerabilities

Courtesy of STRATFOR (subscription required), a look at how drought impacts Morocco:

While declining rainfall is a problem across the Maghreb region of northwest Africa, this year’s ongoing spring and summer drought is hitting Morocco’s agricultural sector particularly hard. The drought will weaken the strategic objectives of the Moroccan government’s agricultural investment plan, which prioritizes support for export-producing large farms over subsistence-producing small farms in order to drum up valuable export revenue. Dampened domestic production will also force Morocco to import more staple crops needed to feed its 36 million citizens. Combined with the loss of crucial agricultural revenue, the added expense of more imports will exacerbate the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, which is already sapping Morocco’s tourism revenue. …

In Morocco, one of the worst North African droughts in years and the subsequent damage to domestic agricultural production will make an already costly 2020 all the more expensive by forcing its government to import more crops, as well as cough up more financial aid for the country’s struggling small farmers. While declining rainfall is a problem across the Maghreb region of northwest Africa, this year’s ongoing spring and summer drought is hitting Morocco’s agricultural sector particularly hard. According to June data released by the Moroccan government, slowdowns in the agricultural sector were the biggest drag on the country’s economic growth last year, constituting a value-added GDP loss of 5.8 percent for the year. But following a dry 2019, this year is shaping up to be far from the recovery from that Moroccan farmers were hoping for. 

  • Seasonal droughts in and around the Sahara Desert are normal, but their duration and severity are worsening due to climate change, lower annual rainfall and wasteful water usage. 
  • This year’s drought will especially impact citrus production, as well as the production of winter grains such as wheat and barley, which are more water-intensive than other food crops. 
  • The United Nations’ latest forecast predicts Morocco will only harvest 3.8 million hectares of winter grains this year, which is 20 percent below the country’s annual average. Morocco’s wheat production, in particular, is expected to fall 50 percent below average this year.  
 

The drought will weaken the strategic objectives of the Moroccan government’s agricultural investment plan, which prioritizes support for export-producing large farms over subsistence-producing small farms in order to drum up valuable export revenue. The negative impact will force the government to focus some of its financial resources on assisting the country’s smaller farmers, whose crops will be hit hardest by the lack of rainfall. 

  • The government’s so-called “Green Morocco Plan,” which was launched in 2008, seeks to revitalize the Moroccan agriculture sector in numerous ways, including by investing more in the production of crops that have the most export potential. Under this plan, Rabat has focused much of its financial resources on modernizing irrigation systems at large-scale farms, which produce the bulk of the country’s revenue-generating crops. 
  • 70 percent of Moroccan farmers, however, work on plots that are five or fewer hectares in size. Some of these farmers have been left to rely on outdated, water-intensive irrigation techniques. This, combined with the fact their plots are often primarily rain-fed, has made Morocco’s small farmers more vulnerable to drought, emboldening their demands for more government support. 
 

Dampened domestic production will force Morocco to import more staple crops needed to feed its 36 million citizens, highlighting the country’s vulnerability to food security issues. 

  • Morocco is expected to import 30 percent more wheat than its annual average this upcoming fiscal year.
  • Tunisia’s wheat imports are expected to increase this year due to the repercussions of the drought, but only slightly compared with Morocco. 
  • Algeria’s wheat imports, however, are expected to actually decline since its production is concentrated in an area that has experienced normal levels of rainfall this year.

The loss of crucial agricultural revenue in Morocco, combined with the added expense of more imports, will also exacerbate the economic fallout from COVID-19. Morocco is a rare bastion of economic, social and political stability in the Middle East and North Africa region. But disruptions to two of its main economic pillars — agriculture due to drought and tourism due to the pandemic — now risk shaking that stability. 

  • COVID-19 has left the government even more cash-strapped than expected this year by slashing global demand for tourism, Morocco’s other labor-intensive economic sector. 
  • Morocco is expected to lose $3.4 billion in tourism revenue in 2020 due to the crisis.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 8th, 2020 at 5:23 am and is filed under Morocco.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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