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Morocco Prays To Save Wheat Fields After Catastrophic Drought

Morocco’s drought has probably wiped out half of its wheat harvest – devastating a country where even the King has called on the nation to pray for rain.

The driest start to winter in two decades in the center of the country has decimated crops in Africa’s second-biggest wheat grower, where just 15 per cent of fields are irrigated. Imports may double to a record next season to account for the reduced harvest, a Bloomberg survey of six analysts showed.

Moroccans consume more than three times as much wheat as the global average, eating it in everything from thick soups to filo-dough pastry. The grain is a staple in North Africa, where higher  food costs and shortages in the past six years helped trigger unrest that led to the toppling of governments in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The drought evoked King Mohammed VI to lead rare national rain prayers after normal Friday worship for a second time in January.

"The harvest is going to be catastrophic," said Abdelaziz Oumarrou, a 31-year-old farmer whose 5 hectares (12 acres) near the city of Midelt support his family of four. "This kind of agriculture has no future. We have to change and start doing things such as irrigating."

Dry weather will slow economic growth to 1.2 per cent from 3.8 per cent last year, researcher Centre Marocain de Conjoncture said last month. Agriculture’s contribution to the economy ranges from 12 per cent to 17 per cent because harvests are so rain reliant. The government wants to boost farming, partly though subsidizing seeds and irrigation equipment.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.

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