Agriculture employs about 40% of Morocco's workforce, which suffers from a high (as much as 20% locally) unemployment rate. In the rainy sections of the northeast, barley, wheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. On the Atlantic coast, where there are extensive plains, olives, citrus fruits, and wine grapes are grown, largely with water supplied by artesian wells. Morocco also produces a significant amount of illicit hashish, much of which is shipped to Western Europe. Livestock are raised and forests yield cork, cabinet wood, and building materials. Part of the maritime population fishes for its livelihood. Agadir, Essaouira, El Jadida, and Larache are among the important fishing harbors.
Casablanca is by far the largest port and an important industrial center. Significant industries include textile and leather goods manufacturing, food processing, and oil refining. In the northern foothills of the Atlas Mts. there are large mineral deposits; phosphates are the most important, but iron ore, silver, zinc, copper, lead, manganese, barytine, gold, and coal (the only sizable coal deposits in North Africa) are also found. Marrakech, Meknès, and Fès are the most important centers in the mineral trade. A few oases in southern Morocco, notably Tafilalt, are all that relieve the desert wastes. Tourism also is important economically, as are cash remittances from Moroccans working in France.
Morocco's coastal areas and the mineral-producing interior are linked by an expanding road and rail network, and port facilities are being further developed. The main exports are clothing, fish, inorganic chemicals, transistors, minerals, fertilizers (including phosphates), petroleum products, fruits, and vegetables. The chief imports are crude petroleum, textiles, telecommunications equipment, wheat, gas, electricity, and plastics. France, Spain, and Italy are the leading trade partners.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.