Morocco to raise customs duty on soft wheat

Rabat, April 19 (Reuters) - Morocco plans to increase customs duty on soft wheat and durum to help domestic farmers benefit from an expected better yield this year by cutting imports, its agriculture minister said.

The wheat import duty has been suspended until May to ensure price stability and steady supply after Morocco experienced two years of consecutive drought.

The new import duty will be announced in the upcoming days Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch told parliament members without offering details. The move will cut imports and help farmers market the domestic harvest, he said.

Morocco usually imports 2 million to 3 million tonnes of soft wheat, mostly from France, depending on local output.

Following abundant rainfall this year, 4.2 mln hectares have been sown with cereals, including 44% with soft wheat, 34% with durum and 22% with barley.

Last year's harvest was 39% lower than in 2019 due to drought, leading to a 46.3% increase in wheat imports to $1.5 billion, the foreign exchange regulator data showed.

The central bank has already raised its economic growth projection for 2021 from earlier forecasts based on a predicted cereals harvest of 9.5 million tonnes, well up from 3.2 million tonnes last year. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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