Moroccan wheat imports to be even bigger than thought


Morroco's record wheat imports will be even bigger than previously thought, US officials said, responding to recent tender activity.

The US Department of Agriculture's Rabat bureau lifted its forecast of 2016-17 wheat imports by 500,000 tonnes, to 5.5m tonnes.

"This change is based on increasing import demand as a result of tightening stocks and the results of the most recent tender," the bureau said.

Tight stocks

Wheat production in Morocco plunged to a nine-year low last year, pushing imports to record levels.

Stocks have tightened dramatically, with heavy imports needed before the next harvest, which may be delayed due to slow plantings.

"As of January 1, 2017, Morocco estimates its total stock of common wheat at 150,000 tonnes, durum wheat at 60,000 tonnes, and barley at 100,000 tonnes," the bureau said.

"According to the trade, these stocks will cover domestic demand only through the end of February, and consequently, imports are expected to increase."

Tariff-free licences issued

Last week Moroccan grains agency awarded licences to import 390,000 tonnes of soft wheat from the European Union at a preferential tariff rate, as part of a tender process.

The volume was up from the 363,636 tonnes of licences indicated as available in the tender when it was announced last month.

The agency also last week announced 359,998 tonnes for reduced tariffs shipments from the US, in separate tender process.

Delayed crop

And the current Moroccan wheat crop has been delayed.

"The 2017-18 season started very late, due to rain delays and some areas sowing did not finish until the end of December 2016," said the bureau.

The Moroccan agriculture minister last week saw wheat and barley plantings at a combined 4.8m hectares.

Total wheat and barley harvest area was 3.2m hectares last season, according to USDA figures.


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