Agriculture is the most important economic sector by contribution to GDP for both Morocco as a whole and for the Fez-Meknes region, where farming represents half of economic activity by value. The region boasts a variety of agricultural resources, including a large head of livestock, a diverse crop base and 1.34m ha of arable land, 14% of which is irrigated to date. Additionally, the sector employs over 590,000 people, or 43.5% of the region’s workforce. Building on these strengths is a strategic move for Fez-Meknes as it positions itself to further rurally inclusive development, as well as the region’s integration into the wider economy.

Sector Strategy

The Regional Agricultural Plan (Plan Agricole Régional, PAR) for Fez-Meknes developed within the parameters of the Green Morocco Plan (Plan Maroc Vert, PMV), which was launched in 2018 and will run through 2022. This PAR both encompasses the pillars of the PMV and addresses regional particularities, such as the potential of exploiting specific crops on specific territorial units. For example, the pre-Rif unit seeks to promote cereals, market gardening, capers, olives and milk, while the Middle Atlas unit is focused on red meat, poultry, roses, honey, saffron and lavender.

More specifically, the PAR will mobilise Dh7.2bn (€648m) in public and private investments in order to fund 102 projects under the first pillar of the PMV – high value-added, modern agriculture – and 159 projects under the second, which addresses solidarity farming in marginal zones. Central to these projects is the cultivation of roughly 156,000 ha of crops through financial assistance grants provided by the federal Agriculture Development Fund.

Furthermore, part of the plan includes Dh865m (€77.8m) for the Moyen Sebou-Inaouen Aval irrigation programme, which will install drip technology to water 33,000 ha of agricultural land across seven provinces. The system, which originates at Idriss I dam, north-east of Fez, was designed to cover 4600 ha of irrigated perimeter and 12,400 ha of dry land by 2020. The project is projected to increase agricultural yields by 300%, improve water recovery, boost farmers’ incomes and create 971,000 days of work by 2020.

Additionally, the plan will finance mechanisation to increase productivity, provide institutional training to 3000 youths and qualifications to 7000 young farmers. In sum, the plan is designed to drive output across a range of farm products, improve the quality and conditions of marketing, modernise irrigation, and support employment and higher wages for the rural population.

Diverse Production

Although myriad crops are harvested in Fez-Meknes, cereals account for 53% of the cultivated crop by land use, or 716,000 ha for the 2018/19 agricultural year. Of that sum, 44% was reserved for durum wheat, 29% for barley and 27% for soft wheat. Cereal cultivation represented 27% of total agricultural turnover, created 21% of added value and employed 50% of all people working in agriculture.

Crop production has improved with the updates and technique improvements on which the PMV aims to build: between 2003 and 2007 annual output per hectare averaged 1.35m tonnes; that figure grew to 1.74m tonnes in the 2017/18 season, a 31% increase.

Fruits comprise the region’s second-largest group of crops by volume but account for 38% of turnover and 42% of value addition. Moreover, fruit production provides more jobs per hectare, covering 14% of sector workers while occupying just 7% of cultivated land.

Olives, which are classified independently, used 20% of the region’s cultivated area. Their production created 19% of sector turnover and 22% of the sector’s added value and provided jobs to 20% of sector workers.

Beyond crops, animal and livestock activities are also important to regional agriculture. Red meat production has a 57% share of turnover and employed more than three-quarters of workers handling animal products. Dairy and poultry production activities rounded out the sector, comprising 22% and 19% of turnover and employing 17% and 6% of animal farmers, respectively.