December 8, 2010 / 12:20 PM / 9 years ago

Morocco grain crop escapes major flood damage

RABAT (Reuters) - Flooding in Morocco which killed at least 30 people last week has not caused major damage to the grain crop, officials and farmers said.

A child rides a bicycle on a flooded street in Yahya du Rharb, near Kenitra February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Morocco is the world’s tenth biggest importer of grain and its imports fluctuate according to the size of its domestic harvest, which last year was hit by a combination of a shortage of rain and severe flooding.

At least 30 people were killed in the floods that also blocked road and railways.

The only damage to grain crops from the flooding was reported in the northern Gharb region, on the Atlantic coast.

“Floods damaged about 5 percent of wheat growing areas in Gharb. This is nothing compared to last year’s catastrophe from the flooding here,” said Jilali Benkroun, head of the Farmers’ Association in the Gharb region.

“The season looks good. We have increased sowing acreage using quality seeds and more fertilisers despite the damage from flooding last month.”

Gharb is Morocco’s second most important grain-growing area and last year accounted for 35 percent of the country’s total acreage under cereals. Flooding destroyed most of the region’s crop last season, Benkroun said.

Agriculture Ministry figures showed that for Morocco overall, farmers had increased the area under cereals by 36 percent on last year, and that rainfall was 39 percent higher than the same time in the 2009-10 season.

The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement: “The farming season for 2010-2011 is evolving under good conditions.”

Unfavourable weather led Morocco to post a 27 percent drop in its grain harvest last season. This forced it to increase government spending on grain imports and pushed its budget from surplus into deficit.

Farmers said the next critical period for this season’s grain crop will be in March, when the plants need rainfall to mature properly.

“If the rainfall in March turns out to be as good as it was in the three months until November, we can expect an excellent harvest,” said Salah Sendoumi, a farmer in the Casablanca area.

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