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Political Economy of the Wheat Sector in Morocco: Seed Systems, Varietal Adoption, and Impacts

In Morocco, wheat is an important cereal crop that significantly contributes to the livelihoods of farming communities and the national economy. On average for the period 2010–2016, the country produced 5.7 million tonnes of wheat grain on about 3.2 million ha of land. In 2013, total cereal production accounted for 47% of the agricultural value added. Wheat production alone was worth about USD 850 million, making it the second most important crop after olives. In the 1960s, Morocco was largely self-sufficient, producing more than 80% of the wheat for domestic consumption. This declined over the years and by the turn of the century, on average, only 60% of the total domestic demand for wheat was met. Despite the doubling of its population during the same period, the per capita supply of wheat increased impressively from 138 kg/person in the 1960s to an average of 255 kg/person in the period 2001–2016. Considering the population increase and changing food habits, wheat, and particularly bread, consumption became an even bigger component of food security. With the introduction of improved wheat varieties in the 1980s, significant increases in yields were observed, though the yield levels were far below both the global average of over 3 t/ha and the African average of 2.3 t/ha. Consequently, Morocco continued to import large volumes, making wheat the most important (in both volume and value terms) of all agricultural imports. Despite the high dependency on imports, wheat remains one of the most important food staples in the Moroccan diet. The Green Morocco Plan (GMP) (the official government strategy to achieve food security), for the sustainable management of natural resources and agricultural competitiveness, considers the cereal seed system as a fundamental component to enhance the agricultural sector and to achieve wider economic development. The use of high-yielding varieties and the associated crop management practices have been the major drivers for the significant changes in wheat production and productivity. One of the most important results from public investment in agricultural research is the development of new crop varieties and their associated technologies. The Government of Morocco and its international research and development partners have made substantial investments in agricultural innovation. However, developing new crop varieties is not enough. To have a real impact, crop development should be coupled with an efficient and effective seed-delivery system that will push technologies out to farmers’ fields. Within this context, there are several actors in the Moroccan seed sector. These include the national agricultural research system, public and private seed companies with networks of seed dealers, associations of seed growers and seed traders, and regulatory agencies whose individual or collective strengths and weaknesses influence the country’s ability to achieve meaningful impacts. This book, Political Economy of the Wheat Sector in Morocco: Seed Systems, Varietal Adoption, and Impacts, documents the studies conducted on the wheat sector in general. It also documents the wheat seed system, its adoption and impacts in Morocco, through support provided by the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Wheat and the European Union-International Fund for Agricultural Development (EU-IFAD) Project. Chapter 1 highlights the cereal seed sector, including the policy and regulatory frameworks. Chapter 2 presents the development of improved wheat varieties, their registration and release, including variety protection and licensing for commercialization. Chapter 3 summarizes the early generation seed (breeder, pre-basic, and basic) multiplication by the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), and large- scale certified seed production by the public and private sectors. Chapter 4 elaborates on seed quality assurance and certification. Chapter 5 describes the adoption and impacts of improved varieties and seed demand analysis. Chapter 6 presents perspectives on the wheat seed sector. Chapter 7 synthesizes the overall findings on the wheat seed sector, focusing on delivery systems, variety adoption, and impacts in Morocco. The experiences documented in this book are expected to inform stakeholders – including policy makers, researchers, farmers, private and public commercial farms, and development partners – about the status, challenges, and opportunities in the wheat sector in Morocco. Additionally, it paves the way for the development of more efficient intervention options for the future.

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