By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
RABAT, April 13, 2012 (Magharebia)
Morocco is taking action to help farmers suffering from the drought.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on March 27th met a delegation from the Moroccan Agriculture and Rural Development Confederation to discuss a plan to help farmers and save livestock.
It is the government’s duty to help the agriculture sector, Benkirane said as he explained that the government decided to safeguard a key component of the Moroccan economy.
The government plans to implement a 1.53 billion dirham programme for the affected areas. The government will waive customs duty on imported barley, implement a livestock assistance programme, supply seed, boost subsidies granted for certified seeds and ensure that insured farmers whose crops and legumes have been harmed are compensated for their losses.
Benkirane stressed the importance of adopting a participatory approach based on co-ordinating the efforts of different departments and operators within the sector in order to find appropriate solutions to various issues.
The Moroccan agricultural season has been troubled due to cold weather earlier this year and the onset of a drought. Farming in the kingdom provides the main source of income for 80% of the rural population and 14-20% of the country’s GDP, according to figures from the finance ministry.
The growth forecast of 4.2% anticipated by the government for 2012 must be revised downwards, according to Central Bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri.
“This year will be characterised by drought and an unpredictable international situation,” he said. “The Central Bank predicts that growth will be below 3% this year.”
Farmers who have been waiting for action will receive much needed assistance from the government to help them to make it through the tough season.
“In addition to 1.53 billion dirhams set aside to support the sector, another 1 billion dirhams has been allocated to rural areas,” Ahmed Ouayache, the president of the Moroccan Agriculture and Rural Development Confederation said. Crédit Agricole will also restructure loans to support farmers, he added.
The president of the National Association of Agricultural Investors, Abou Baker Belkora, said that the drought was just one element of the “structural problems” affecting the agricultural sector.
“What is essential,” he argued, “is to find proper solutions and not merely adopt one-off measures and budgets.”
Economist Magid Badri had the same view, underlining that “the government must now devise a plan to end reliance on good weather alone.”
“Morocco’s medium-term outlook is still dependent on the agricultural sector and all efforts to modernise it must be co-ordinated, especially given the scale of the government’s ambitions,” Badri said.
Badri said that the Moroccan government is hoping to increase the contribution made by the agricultural sector to the GDP from an average of 74 billion dirhams to somewhere between 100 and 174 billion dirhams by year 2020. “This will create 1.5 million new jobs and double incomes for nearly 1.5 million inhabitants of rural areas,” he said.
Small-scale farmers have high hopes.
Hmida El Mhaidi, a farmer in Kenitra, said that the most pressing issue was the need to save livestock. “Farmers are eagerly waiting to receive subsidies from the government to help them deal with the lack of rainfall and the high prices of animal feed and fodder,” he said.
Picture credit: Abdelhak Senna for AFP