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Big harvest boosts Moroccan economy

Tourism and remittances are down but Morocco's economy is doing just fine thanks in part to record rains.

Ample rains in Morocco have given rise to a record harvest this year, insulating the country from the global economic downturn. Sixty miles south of Casablanca, Issaad Mohamed, 57, pulls weeds from his unseasonably green beet field. (Erik German/GlobalPost)

EL-JADIDA, Morocco — In a lush field 60 miles south of Casablanca, a farmer revealed one reason why this country’s economy has so far kept healthy while others have fallen ill.

Belkadaf M’barek, 46, reached under a bushy, knee-high plant and fished out a cluster of bright red, baseball-sized tomatoes.

“2009 is a great year,” M’barek said, squinting beneath a cloudless sky. “God willing may every year be this good.”

In 14 years growing tomatoes, potatoes and beets here, M’barek said he’s never had a harvest so large. Farmers across Morocco are telling the same story. A generously wet winter filled canals and watered fields across this often arid country, giving a timely boost to an economy that remains heavily tied to agriculture.

Officials in this North African nation are predicting the economy will actually grow here about 5 percent in 2009 — good fortune they attribute to low inflation and public debt, high government spending and the simple matter of rain.

One regional official with Morocco’s ministry of agriculture, Abdelaziz Ouaaka, said the explanation for this year’s economic success is straightforward. Revenues from crops and livestock account this year for nearly 20 percent of Morocco’s GDP, he said, and for many crops this was the best harvest in 30 years.

The 10 million metric tons of grain farmers reaped this year, he said, was “a record never before attained in Morocco.”