May 7, 2010 / 10:30 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Morocco to raise soft wheat import tariffs sharply

* Aim is to shield local farmers from foreign competition

* It expects low prices for wheat abroad

(Adds details, background)

RABAT, May 7 (Reuters) - Morocco will raise tariffs for soft wheat imports to 135 percent from 90 percent for the June 1-Dec.31 period to shield local farmers from foreign competition, a senior government official said on Friday.

“The tariffs increase was decided at cabinet meeting on Wednesday as the authorities expect the prices of soft wheat would be low in foreign markets because of the plentiful supply of that wheat on the international market,” the official told Reuters.

Wheat harvest is due to begin early in June in Morocco and extends to early August.

“The measure aims at protecting the domestic crop of soft wheat and to help farmers sell their harvest without pressure on the prices from foreign competition,” added the official, who did not want to be named.

Last month, Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhennouch said Morocco was likely to import around 3.6 million tonnes of soft wheat to meet domestic demand as the national grain harvest would decline this season from last year’s record.

He said he expected a 2010 national cereals harvest of around 8 million tonnes, down from last year’s 10.2 million tonnes but above this decade’s average of 6 million tonnes.

Import tariffs have been at 90 percent for soft wheat and 80 percent for durum wheat since January 1, 2010. (Reporting by Lamine Ghanmi; editing by James Jukwey)

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