Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Morocco's trade gap widens as grain imports surge

Morocco's trade deficit grew 27 percent in the first nine months of the year as grain imports surged to make up for a poor domestic harvest and export growth lagged, figures from the government's Exchange Office showed.

However, increases in remittances from Moroccans abroad and growing tourism revenue boosted the central bank's net foreign assets to 186.3 billion Moroccan dirhams, up 7 percent from last December.

January-to-September imports grew 15 percent to 181.8 billion dirhams. The value of wheat imports more than doubled to 5.25 billion dirhams, with foreign wheat purchases by volume up 59 percent at 2.36 million tonnes.

The average wheat import price was 2,222 dirhams per tonne, up 37 percent from the same nine-month period a year earlier.

Government reforms to boost industry and transport infrastructure and improve low-income housing created more demand for foreign heavy equipment and materials.

Imports of finished capital goods like industrial vehicles and railway rolling stock were up 14 percent at 40 billion dirhams.

Exports climbed 4.7 to 87 billion dirhams, with a sharp increase in sales of fertilisers and phosphates.

Tourism income grew 10 percent to 45 billion dirhams and remittances by Moroccans living abroad climbed 15 percent to 41.1 billion dirhams.

Foreign investment and loans grew 3.3 percent to 23.4 billion dirhams.

Purchases of energy-related products, which inflated the trade deficit last year, were up 5.1 percent at 36 billion dirhams.

Morocco's government hopes the opening this summer of one of Africa's biggest container ports near the Strait of Gibraltar will give a boost to export trade.

The $2 billion Tanger-Med port sits on one of the world's biggest shipping routes and a series of low-tax industrial parks are being built nearby to encourage foreign firms to delocalize and take advantage of Morocco's low labour costs.

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