Morocco's trade deficit soars by 27,6% in February

An unusual cold spell in the first two months of 2012 affected Morocco's crops

Morocco's trade deficit dramatically widened in February 2012 mainly due to the soaring costs of energy and wheat imports, according to Morocco's central bank’s latest report.
The North African kingdom’s trade balance showed a trade deficit of 38 billion dirhams against 25.7 billion dirhams in the same period last year, an increase of 27.6% driven by a higher increase in imports, Bank Al Maghrib said.
February trade deficit worsened due to a rise in imports from 52.94 to 60.23 billion dirhams while exports increased from 26.21 to 27.45 billion dirhams despite the 29% rise in exports of phosphate and derived products.
The soaring costs of energy are affecting Morocco’s balance of trace as it is almost entirely dependent on imports to satisfy its energy needs.
Agricultural exports, which represent 14% of Morocco’s output saw a dramatic fall due to rain shortage this year. Exports of citrus fruit decreased by 30% and fresh vegetables by 48.5%.
Drought and an unusually long cold spell in the first two months of this year have taken their toll on Morocco’s cereal cultivation, which will force the north African kingdom to import more cereals.
Morocco is one of the world's biggest cereal importers. An increase in cereal imports will adversely affect its balance of payments and is likely to send the huge deficit of 2011 to new highs.
According to the finance ministry’s report on the progress of the farming season earlier this month, rainfall from September to mid-January was 27 percent below a normal year.
Last month, King Mohammed VI asked his ministers about the effects of rain shortage on the agricultural season.
Agriculture employs 40 percent of the workforce in the country. A bad harvest season will force rural-urban migration which will put more pressure on Morocco’s economy. Dr. Saad Guerraoui is senior editor at Middle East Online