Before the current crisis, cultivated green spaces covered more than a quarter of the Kingdom’s total area, an area of special importance in the Moroccan economy, as it constitutes about 14 percent of the gross national product, and also provides a stable income for about 40 percent of the Kingdom’s population.
Mohamed Jedry, a Moroccan expert and economic analyst, explains that food security in Morocco faces great challenges related to the crises of the agricultural sector, which he described as having widespread and continuous dimensions over the past few years, most notably: high global inflation rates, and recurring dry seasons, which did not pass. country for several decades.
And he added, in statements to “Sky News Arabia Economy”, that lessons must be learned from the past period, in order for the agricultural sector to continue its important economic role in providing foreign currencies for the country, in addition to job opportunities that are available as a result of increased expansions, while achieving the goals of self-sufficiency in basic commodities. Such as: red and white meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits.
Jedry believes that it has become very difficult to reach these goals, without specific steps and procedures that keep pace with the changes taking place in the global economy, which he summarizes as follows:
● Increasing the cultivated areas, specifically with crops that are consumed locally, such as grains, corn, barley, legumes, oil plants, sugar cane, and beets.
● Continuing work to solve the drought crisis and water scarcity, through investments in connecting water basins, desalinating sea water, establishing wastewater treatment plants, and continuing to construct small and medium dams.
● Encouraging feed and fertilizer industries; Because it helps producers of red and white meat to control the prices of feed and fertilizers.
● continue to invest in the renewable energy sector such as wind and solar; Due to the low cost of production for farmers, unlike what happened last year; The energy bill in the Kingdom of Morocco has historically reached record levels, exceeding $15 billion.
● Creating a balance between crops destined for export and those destined for the local market.
According to data from the Moroccan Exchange Office – the government agency in charge of statistics – Morocco imported nearly 50 million tons of grain crops last year, up 23.2 percent year-on-year.
effects of inflation
A recent report by Fitch Ratings indicated that Morocco’s rating depends on weak development and governance indicators, high public debt, as well as the volatility of agricultural output.
The report added that Morocco’s economic recovery is facing unfavorable factors, as economic growth slowed in 2022 to 1.2 percent, after it recorded 7.9 percent in 2021, and agricultural production declined by 15 percent; due to severe drought.
And the agency expected a recovery in GDP growth in 2023 to three percent, supported by an improvement in agricultural production, while the performance of the sector itself still depends mainly on weather conditions.
Weak domestic production and high prices of raw materials used in the agricultural sector have caused inflation to rise to unprecedented levels in the past few months.
At the end of last February, for example, inflation reached 10.1 percent, as a result of an increase in food prices by more than 20 percent.
In this regard, the Moroccan government tried to mitigate the effects of the increase in food and energy prices on families, especially after inflation affected the prices of vegetables and fruits, in which Morocco achieves self-sufficiency. It adopted a package of policies, which included:
• Providing general support for basic foodstuffs.
• Reducing the increase in commodity prices.
• Exempting fertilizer products from taxes.
• Abolition of the value-added tax on agricultural products; To reduce farmers’ expenses.
• limiting exports of some commodities; To ensure their availability in the market, such as tomatoes, whose price increased during the month of Ramadan.
According to a World Bank report issued last February, this required mobilizing additional public spending amounting to about 2 percent of GDP.
Despite these measures, families with modest living conditions, and those most in need, are still suffering from the effects of high food and other prices due to inflation.
According to World Bank calculations, the annual inflation rate was almost a third higher for the poorest 10 percent of the population, compared to the richest 10 percent of citizens, primarily due to the effects of food price increases, which take a large share of the spending of the poorest households. .
The report expects economic growth in Morocco to accelerate to 3.1 percent in 2023, thanks to key sectors.
However, the risks of negative developments remain due to geopolitical tensions, including the Ukrainian war, the slowdown in the activities of Morocco’s main trading partners in Europe, and potential climate shocks.
For his part, Idris Al-Issawi, a Moroccan economic analyst, said in statements to “Sky News Arabia Economy”, that the country had drawn up plans in earlier times; To face possible climatic fluctuations, such as drought, to maintain food security, these plans included: building dams and using the available water for agriculture.
Al-Issawi explains that despite this, agriculture in Morocco is still mainly dependent on rain, so it is always linked to climatic conditions and their stability, which affects the cultivation of grain, which was not sufficient to cover the country’s needs.
Morocco needs about 10 million tons of grain annually, and according to statistics from the Moroccan Exchange Office, the country imported soft wheat last year, at a value of 25 billion dirhams ($2.4 billion), an increase of 81 percent over 2021.
Al-Issawi pointed out that Morocco’s entry into the club of countries producing clean solar energy in the past decade, with the opening of the “Nour 1” and “Nour 2” stations in the Moroccan eastern desert, contributes to reducing the energy costs that the country needs. To maintain food security in various ways.
He added that investment in the agricultural sector requires large funds and advanced technology, and Morocco must pay more attention to it in the coming periods.
Other sources of water
The Moroccan economist, Dr. Hisham Benfdoul, says that Morocco is currently heading to confront the impact of drought on food security, through existing dams that already have a large capacity, and provide 20 billion cubic meters suitable for irrigation or drinking.
He added that the Moroccan government intends to support the agricultural sector by building seawater desalination plants, to provide 150 million cubic meters to face the risks of recurring droughts, which the country is experiencing at its peak in the current period.
Benfadoul says that since 2008, the government launched a program that extended until 2020, called the “Green Morocco” plan, with the aim of developing production, making the sector a primary engine for the country’s social and economic development, and preserving natural resources.
The statements of the Moroccan Prime Minister, Aziz Akhannouch, before Parliament at the beginning of this month, revealed the plan’s contribution to fully exploiting Morocco’s agricultural potential, doubling the gross domestic product, and doubling exports 3 times, while being able to create more than 50 million additional days of work.
He pointed out that there is a new scheme; To complement the first plan, which extends from 2021 to 2030, it aims to develop crops that do not need a lot of irrigation water, such as carob, almond, olive and cactus trees.
According to Reuters, in the past two months, Morocco imported about 20,000 head of cattle from Brazil. To fill the shortage of meat and reduce its prices in the local market, after the country was affected by the repercussions of the drought crisis.
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