|Moroccan farmers are covered with climate-risk coverage from MAMDA. / Photo by maxbelchenko via Shutterstock|
Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture expects cereal outputs to decline by 42% this year compared to last season due to irregular and poor rainfall, reports e-newspaper Morocco World News.
Drought impacts cereal production
The Ministry forecasts the production of three main kinds of cereal - durum wheat, common wheat, and barley – to reach 3 million tonnes this year. Several measures have also been implemented to replenish the stocks as well as maintain the availability of cereals in the market.
At the beginning of March, the Ministry and the mutual Moroccan Agricultural Insurance Company (MAMDA) also initiated joint expertise operations to determine drought-affected areas. The lack of rain in the country negatively impacted the output of crops, especially cereals.
The Ministry and MAMDA said in a press release that all measures have already been considered and physical technical reports, accompanied by drones and satellite images, for 2019-2020 agricultural season are being finalized so farmers of drought-affected areas will be compensated as soon as possible.
Climate-risk coverage for Moroccan farmers
Moroccan farmers are covered with climate-risk coverage from MAMDA. They are granted compensations in case climatic conditions, such as drought, hail, and sand winds, impact their farms of more than one million hectares. The insurance also covers both pulse and cereal crops.
During the 2018-2019 agricultural season, more than 20,000 farmers holding one million hectares have been compensated as their lands are situated in areas declared by authorities as “disaster area.”
As of April 22, the 2019-2020 agricultural season only recorded precipitation of 205 millimeters, a 25% decline from the last season of 282.1 mm, and a 34% decline compared to the 30-year average of 323.7 mm. Precipitation is the most important agricultural weather parameter.
Drought stress will not just limit the cereal crop production but will also limit the nutrient acquisition of the crop. As such, grain quality is an essential trait for the improvement of the cereal crops since they are the major contributors to the dietary intake of nutrients in the world.
|Drought stress will not just limit the cereal crop production but will also limit the nutrient acquisition of the crop. / Photo by Jandrie Lombard via Shutterstock|
Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch, however, hopes that “some rainfall might radically change things.” Other provinces have recently experienced snowfall, heavy rains, and a drop in thunderstorms but it is still uncertain if it can resuscitate the 2020 agricultural season.
The ministry also explained that aside from the low volume of water, the irregular and poor Spatio-temporal distribution of rain in the country negatively impacted the cereal output. According to New York-based data technology company Knoema, a total of 9,787,246 metric tons of cereal crops (dry grain only) were harvested in Morocco in 2017. It represents a 174.80 % change from the 3,561,589 metric tons of cereal crops produced in 2016. That data, however, does not include cereal crops harvested green for food, silage, or food, crops harvested for hay, and those used for grazing.
Cereals or grains are a part of the grass family cultivated for their starchy dry fruits. Morocco enjoys a 67.00% share of cereals allocated to human food in 2017 from 64.43% a year prior. Data is provided by scientific online publication Our World in Data. The country also achieved a 2.26 t of cereal yield in 2018 if it includes wheat, rye, oats, barley, maize, rice, mixed grains, buckwheat, sorghum, and millet.
Cereal sector in Morocco
Agriculture plays a significant role in the Moroccan economy contributing a GDP that ranges between 15% and 17%. Agriculture also employs 40% of Morocco’s workforce.
One of the main sectors of agricultural production in the country is the cereals sector, a study published by the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) reads. This is why policies associated with the cereals sector have been combined into policies that are deemed strategic goods, including sugar and oils. These commodities have been also subjected to direct intervention by the public authorities in the country. The main cereal-growing regions are in the plateaux and rain-fed plains of Sais, Gharb, Tadla, Haouz, Abda, and Chaouia. Cereal production in these regions is combined with sheep farming too so that farmers can build cereal fodder resources, such as stubble, straw, and barley.
Other crops will not be affected
While the North African country expects a 42% decline for this year’s cereal production, the Ministry of Agriculture is optimistic about the country’s GDP for this year. It's estimated to be above MAD 105 billion or $10.5 billion. The ministry added that based on their provisional estimates, agriculture’s GDP will not fall more than 5%. Except for cereals, all other crops will have a normal or even better condition compared to last year’s output.
Olive trees and citrus fruits, for instance, will demonstrate a good production if the weather will turn out to be favorable from May to June.
Food insecurity forecast
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization expects global food insecurity to increase this year as conflict will impinge on food access. It said that if appropriate responses and measures are not implemented, there may be 14.4 million people who will be severely food insecure during the lean season between June and August 2020. Urgent food assistance is needed for 4 million people in Nigeria, 1.2 million people in Burkina Faso, and 1.5 million people in Niger.
It is not the first time that Morocco has encountered drought fallout. In 2018, Moroccan King Mohammed VI called for nationwide prayers for rain. The government also said that the 2016 drought was the worst in three decades as it cut the cereal output to about 3.35 tonnes and a 70% decline form the 11 million tonnes in 2015 cereal output. To protect the local harvest, Moroccan officials have also increased the customs duty on soft wheat imports to 75% in 2016 from 17.5% in 2015.
Farmers are often forced to sell their livestock at low prices due to drought since there would be no fodder (food consumed by domestic animals). The rain delay also impacts the filling rate of agricultural dams. Yet, agriculture has already explained how even full-capacity dams would still not solve the irrigation problem because 85% of agricultural land in the country only receives moisture from rain.
It would help Morocco have an effective program to mitigate the effects of drought in the face of the Covid-19 crisis and low rainfall, which could spell an unfavorable change in the crop year.