* Crop down slightly on last season
* Poor rains affected harvest: ministry official
(Adds details, background)
TRIPOLI, June 10 (Reuters) - Libya’s grain harvest this season is 300,000 tonnes, down slightly on the previous crop because of poor rainfall, an agriculture ministry official told Reuters.
“Production for the 2009-2010 agricultural season is 300,000 tonnes of wheat and barley,” said the ministry official, who did not want to be identified. “Climate changes ... negatively affected production this year.”
The official said the 2008-2009 harvest was 330,000 tonnes, of which 180,000 tonnes was wheat and 150,000 tonnes barley. Libya’s grain-growing season runs from November to May.
The size of Libya’s domestic grains harvest can influence how much foreign wheat the North African oil producer has to import each year.
An adviser to Libya’s agriculture ministry said in April that annual imports were usually about 1.5 million tonnes and that he expected a similar figure this year.
Libyan grains harvests are likely to improve over the next few years because farmers will be able to irrigate their land using water from the latest phase of the Great Man-Made River, the agriculture ministry official told Reuters.
This project, speaheaded by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, transports water from underground aquifers in the Sahara desert to farmland and population centres via a network of pipes and channels. (Reporting by Salah Sarrar; Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by James Jukwey)