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Weather helps North African durum crop

Long-term weather forecast encouraging.
Morocco produced 1.2 million tonnes of durum in 2023-24, according to the International Grains Council. That is up from 800,000 tonnes the previous year.

SASKATOON — Growing conditions have improved in parts of North Africa and there should be more help on the way in the new year, says a meteorologist.

Much-needed rain fell in northeast Algeria and northern Tunisia during the week ending Nov. 26, a region that had been particularly parched.

But the rain missed Morocco, which is still experiencing drought.

“They do need moisture,” said Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc.

“The ground is very dry once again and the water reservoirs are still minimal.”

Northwest Algeria and the interior of Tunisia are also in need of water.

The good news is that the long-term weather forecast is encouraging.

Warm ocean waters that are generating the wet bias that France and many other parts of Europe are experiencing will eventually pay dividends for North Africa as well.

“As we go deeper into winter, the jet stream will be pushed further south and the same phenomena should occur in North Africa and Spain,” said Lerner.

He expects conditions to improve starting in the second half of December followed by some consistent rains in January and February.

“The reproductive period should be pretty good with regular occurring precipitation,” he said.

Lerner anticipated that wheat and durum crops in Algeria and Tunisia will be much improved because of the mixture of early-season rain followed by the January-February moisture.

“They will do a whole lot better than last year,” he said.

“I’m pretty convinced of that.”

Morocco’s crops will probably get off to a slow start because of the lack of early-season moisture, but prospects will improve as the season unfolds.

“I would expect Morocco to have its first halfway decent year out of the last three,” he said.

Morocco produced 1.2 million tonnes of durum in 2023-24, according to the International Grains Council. That is up from 800,000 tonnes the previous year.

Algeria harvested 1.9 million tonnes, down from 2.2 million the previous year, while Tunisia produced 500,000 tonnes, less than half of the 1.1 million taken off in 2022-23.

Water reservoirs are still “terribly low” in Morocco and they irrigate a lot of their crops, so Lerner thinks the best they can hope for is an average crop.

“It will be better, but it probably won’t be ideal unless they can get a higher volume of rain somehow,” he said.

He said he believes it will be a similar story in Spain, where it is dry and soil moisture levels are low in the east and south of the country.

Many water reservoirs are at 15 to 40 percent capacity in those regions. It will likely remain dry in that country in December, but it should receive some timely rains in January and February just like North Africa.

The other big news in the durum world is that Russia’s subcommittee on customs, tariff and non-tariff regulation has supported a Ministry of Agriculture proposal to ban the export of durum starting Dec. 1.

It will be a six-month ban running through May 31, 2024, according to APK-Inform. Russia had been shipping a lot of durum to the European Union.

There were also reports that Canada has exported two million tonnes of durum to China, according to Chinese customs data.

Several Canadian analysts said that is impossible and had to be a data error because it doesn’t match Canadian customs data, which shows zero exports to that market through the first nine months of 2023.

LeftField Commodity Research analyst Chuck Penner told Reuters that the discrepancy is likely because of China classifying wheat differently than Canada.

However, Chinese state-run food company COFCO Group said it has imported durum for the first time for processing into flour, according to Reuters.

“This direct import of durum wheat has enriched the structure of China’s imported wheat varieties, facilitated the extension of COFCO’s products upstream and further improved COFCO’s … full industry chain model,” the company said in a statement.

COFCO was contacted for this story but did not respond.


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