By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, March 1, 2012
Morocco is bracing itself for low yields in its harvest this year, as a lack of rainfall and low temperatures over the past several weeks damaged crops.
According to Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhennouch, Morocco has seen temperatures as low as 6°C, slowing crop growth around the country. The regions affected are Gharb, Loukous and Rabat-Sale-Zemmour-Zaer.
However, while addressing the Chamber of Representatives on February 13th, he gave an assurance that temperatures would rise within three weeks and that seasonal conditions will get back to normal.
He added that rainfall has been at 60 per cent of normal levels. To deal with this situation, 110 million dirhams will be allocated to ease fodder shortage in the Souss-Massa-Daraa, Midelt, Rachidia, Guercif and Boulemane regions.
The worst-affected crops include sugar cane and potatoes.
Some 5,500 hectares of potato fields were affected, with 5,000 hectares worth – 8 per cent of national output – completely lost. A total of 1,500 farmers lost crops. The government is prepared to compensate farmers for 50% of their losses.
As for sugar cane, 6,500 farmers have collectively seen 14,220 hectares of their land spoiled. The minister has vowed to give them the support they need.
Akhennouch promised to help farmers through the natural disasters fund.
Chaoui Belassal, an MP representing the Constitutional Union, warned against the marginalisation of farmers who are suffering because of the weather conditions.
“We fear that once again, the promises will not be kept. In Gharb and Loukous there have been costly losses of agricultural produce because of the cold, with avocados, bananas and strawberries being among the crops affected. We need to measure the losses and find new ways of tackling natural disasters.” he argued.
Abdellah El Bekkali, an Istiqlal MP, called on the government to face up to the exceptional and dangerous farming situation and come up with an emergency rescue package. He claimed that the agricultural sector has been harmed all over Morocco.
Farmers are waiting for urgent steps to be taken. Hicham Farssi, who runs a small farm, told Magharebia that the government must restructure irrigation debts. “Farmers are struggling with debts. The first thing the Ministry of Agriculture should do is to help them with this so that they can survive and sow their fields,” he argued.
Economist Moha Zerouali told Magharebia that Morocco relies heavily on the agricultural sector, which accounts for 20% of GDP and employs 40% of the national workforce.