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Morocco’s trade deficit eases 22.2% year/year

RABAT, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Morocco’s trade deficit shrank by 22.2% to 120 billion dirhams ($13 billion) in the first nine months of 2020, the foreign exchange regulator said on Monday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the cost of energy imports, slowed trade and led to economic contractions that have hit demand. Morocco expects a 5.8% economic contraction this year and a fiscal deficit of 7.5% of GDP.

Moroccan imports dropped 16.2% to 307 billion dirhams and exports decreased 11.8% to 187 billion dirhams from January to September compared to the previous year, the regulator said in a monthly report.

Energy imports, including gas and oil, fell 34.6% to 37.7 billion dirhams, following lower prices.

Drought has cut by 39% Morocco’s cereals harvest this year, leading to a spike in soft wheat imports to 11 billion dirhams and in barley to 1.9 billion dirhams.

The automotive sector still tops Morocco’s industrial exports despite a drop in sales of 16.1% to 49 billion dirhams, while exports of phosphates and byproducts including fertilisers fell 2% to 38 billion dirhams.

Travel receipts, crucial to Morocco’s inflow of hard currency, dropped 59.5% to 24.3 billion dirhams, while remittances from Moroccans living abroad rose 2.2% to 50.5 billion dirhams and foreign direct investment slid 28.3% to 10.8 billion dirhams. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, editing by Angus McDowall and Barbara Lewis)