- A total of 106,000 hectares of cultivated fields are to be privatised in Morocco, the government has announced. Foreign bidders were welcome to present tenders to rent these lands, the Ministry of Agriculture emphasised. Bidding is to start early next year.
The Moroccan government on 25 October is to launch an international tender for renting 208 agricultural fields, covering around 56,000 hectares, according to Agriculture Minister, Mohand Laenser. The Minister announced this privatisation effort at a press briefing in Rabat. An additional 40,000 hectares would be offered in 2005, he added.
- Moroccan investors will have no advantages over foreign investors, Minister Laenser told the press. This will be the first time that the Moroccan government opens up for large scale sales of farmlands to foreign investors.
The operation was said to be part of the state's "policy of disengagement from the agriculture production sector," which was in line with the evolution of the national and international economic environment. Private initiative was to be promoted also in the agricultural sector, Minister Laenser said.
The privatisation of the first 56,000 hectares was to be announced on 25 October. Tenders had to be presented to the Ministry by 21 February 2005, and decisions were to be announced on 21 June 2005. A second round of privatisation, including 40,000 hectares of farmlands, was to be announced in July 2005.
The Ministry of Agriculture would award tender winners rental contracts of a duration ranging range from 17 to 40 years, depending on the type of cultivation chosen by the investor. Although any national was invited to present a tender, the Minister in particular invited investors from France, Spain and Italy to present their bids.
The location and type of the agricultural lands was yet to be disclosed by the Ministry. The privatisation effort however focused on lands held by the national Company for Agriculture Development (SODEA) and the Company for agricultural lands management (SOGETA). Both companies are known for their chronic deficits and poor management of state lands.
Minister Laenser said that leasing prices would be set at around euro 135 to 360 annually per hectare. The government thus expected annual rent revenues of up to euro 180 million from this operation. Additional investments were expected to flow into the country's agricultural sector as a result of the scheme.
The Moroccan press so far has reacted positively to the Ministry's announcement, mostly referring to his statement without commenting it. The issue of land ownership has traditionally been sensitive in Morocco, following the painful process to nationalise lands occupied by French and Spanish colonisers after independence.
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