Morocco is the poorest of the Maghreb states. Rapid population growth, growing debt burden and political uncertainty are the main causes of the economic problems. The basis of the country’s economy is agriculture, tourism and phosphate exports.
The country has significant unemployment and underemployment. Together with the International Monetary Fund, Morocco has launched a program of economic reform. This includes privatization, removal of trade barriers and investment in export-oriented industry. As part of this effort, a privatization ministry was established in 1989. Privatization has been slow. The informal economy accounts for one fifth of GDP, and the country is one of the world’s largest cannabis producers.
Agriculture is important for Morocco’s economy. However, production varies widely depending on climatic conditions, recurring periods of drought hit agriculture hard. About 20 percent of the country’s area is cultivated, and just under 30 percent consists of meadow and pasture. The conditions of ownership and the degree of modernization vary widely.
The large farming units, mainly on the coastal plains and at Fès and Marrakech, are modern and export-oriented, while about 75 percent of the units are less than 5 ha and have low mechanization; this group is dominated by self-sustaining agriculture. The most important products are cereals (wheat, barley and corn) as well as fruits (oranges and olives) and vegetables. Livestock management (especially sheep farming) is important, and its importance has increased in recent years.
Natural resources and energy
Raw material production is completely dominated by phosphate mining. Morocco, which has more than 2/3 of the world’s known phosphate reserves, is the world’s third largest producer and the largest exporter of phosphate. Phosphate is mainly mined in Khouribga, Youssoufia and Benguerir. Although Morocco is not fully prospected, there are known deposits of coal, iron ore, lead, copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt, silver, uranium and bauxite. However, these are only extracted in small quantities. Oil production is negligible, but oil-bearing shale finds have been made and some natural gas production is occurring. New gas deposits have been discovered at Essaouira and northern Gharb.
Almost 20 percent of the country’s area is covered by forest; the majority are state-owned. Morocco is one of the world’s largest cork producers, but otherwise, forestry is of little economic importance. In the country, alpha grass is also grown for paper production.
The economic importance of fishing has increased, and a special Ministry of Fisheries was established in 1981. The industry is concentrated in the Atlantic, where the planktonic-rich Canary flow provides good conditions. During the 1990s, annual catches were around 1 million tonnes. About 50 percent of these are sardines. During the 1990s, Morocco had problems with overfishing of several species, and catch quotas were reduced. For a few years, Morocco chose not to have a fisheries agreement with the EU and the agreement that entered into force in 2006 does not include the Mediterranean. The main fishing ports are Agadir, Tan-Tan, Safi and Casablanca.
Morocco is dependent on imports to meet its energy needs.
Morocco’s industry is poorly developed; the most important industrial branches are phosphate processing, metal, cement, food and textile industries. The industry is concentrated in Casablanca, as well as around Rabat, Fès and Marrakech, but efforts are being made to spread it to other areas and to increase the export-oriented industry’s share of production. In the 1980s, a program was launched to liberalize imports and to privatize state-owned enterprises, but the process has proven to take a long time.
Since the 1970s, Morocco’s trade balance has developed negatively, mainly due to the war in Western Sahara, falling phosphate prices and increased imports of oil and food. The country has for a long time had a trade deficit. A free trade agreement between the US and Morocco, the first US with an African country, came into force in 2006.
- COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Morocco, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.
Exports are mainly to Spain, France and India. The most important export products include clothing, textiles, cars, electrical components, raw phosphate, fish and chemicals. Imports, which mainly consist of oil, textiles, communication equipment and food (cereals), come primarily from Spain, France and China. Tourism is an important source of income.
Tourism and gastronomy
Tourism accounts for an important part of the country’s income from abroad. In 1992, there were 4.4 million foreign visitors. Due to the economic crisis, the number of visitors in 1995 and 1996 dropped to 2.6 million, but has since risen again and in 2012 the number of foreign tourists was 9.4 million. France and Spain account for the largest proportion of visitors. More than 15,000 Swedes visit the country annually. In 2012, tourist revenue amounted to approximately 27 percent of the country’s export revenue.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Morocco is Discount with a population of 1,900,000 (estimate 2012). Other major cities include Casablanca with a population of 3,400,000, Fes with a population of 1,100,000, Marrakech with a population of 950,000, Tangier with a population of 790,000, Agadir with a population of 600,000 (2012 estimate).
Morocco has a lot to offer the visitor: sun-kissed beaches, a beautiful and diverse landscape and a rich cultural heritage. Many tourists come to the seaside resorts of the Atlantic coast, for example. Agadir, and several undertake excursions to the inland, often to Marrakech. Historic Morocco has a number of centers between which the king still moves today. A round trip in these so-called royal cities – Rabat, Meknès, Fès and Marrakech – forms the basis of a journey inland.
Rabat has a walled city center, and in the Moroccan Crafts Museum you can see what a Moroccan private palace looked like. Really genuine environments, however, are best seen in the sister city of Salé. At Rabat there is also the suggestive tomb city of Chellah, with well-preserved tomb mosques for the 13th and 13th century sultans.
Meknès is strongly influenced by the architecture of the glossy period in the late 17th century and the beginning of the 17th century, with a very palatial complex. Fès is the most culturally remarkable experience; the entire walled old town lives on in an environment created in the 1400s-1600s, with mosques, Koran schools, palaces, shops, forges and tanneries. The road from Fès to Marrakech follows the central Atlas north-west slope, where there is usually snow during the winter. Marrakech has several interesting monuments, including Mosques, palaces and artificially landscaped gardens began in the 12th century, but are best known for their varied business life.
The largest city, Casablanca, has an old quarter, beautifully situated by the sea, but is particularly interesting through its wide avenues of functionalist architecture from the interwar period. El Jadida west of the coast has a large Portuguese fort from the 16th century and is a popular seaside resort. The northern part of the country has its own mark, Tangier as a former international city and recipient of day tourists from Gibraltar and Spain, and Tétouan as bearer of ancient and Spanish traditions.
The Moroccan cuisine differs from the other North African countries in that the food is not always so spicy but highly flavored with lemon and saffron. Otherwise, the similarities are striking. Fish plays a big role, as do wheat and sheep or lamb, almonds and raisins. The drink in front of others is tea flavored with mint. Soups are common, a harira consists of dried legumes or grains as well as meat or fish chunks. As an appetizer, bstilla is often offered, a puff pastry filled with meat or fish and eggs, seasoned with ginger, saffron, coriander, parsley, cinnamon and mint, and coated with sugar and cinnamon. Couscous is everyday as well as party food, tajine(meat or fish stew cooked in a special clay form) as well. At the dessert table, Morocco again differs from its neighbors; the pastries are slightly less sweet and honey dripping than farther east. As Algeria reduces its wine production, Morocco assumes its role as North Africa’s leading wine producer. The most important crops are in the Casablanca – Rabat – Fès – Marrakech area. The red wines are considered the best, but also rosé wines and white wines are popular.