Morocco's GDP growth seen picking up in Q1 2015 - planning agency

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RABAT, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Morocco's economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, but could reach 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2015 as agricultural output picks up, the planning agency said on Thursday.

Bad weather slashed Morocco's agricultural output to 6.7 million tonnes of grains in 2014, down from 9.7 million tonnes in 2013, but it is expected to rise again in 2015 after improved rainfall.

The government of the North African kingdom sees growth at 4.4 pct in 2015 after slowing to 2.5 pct in 2014. It also plans to reduce the budget deficit to 4.3 pct of GDP this year from an estimated 4.9 pct in 2014.

"The non-agricultural sector would grow at 3.8 pct, while agricultural output would pick up at 5.1 pct in the first quarter of 2015, after dropping 1.5 pct in the fourth quarter of 2014" the planning agency's statement said.

"The oil price drop is reducing further Morocco's balance of payments' deficit, along with the wheat prices in the international market" it added.

Morocco has ended subsidies of energy products including diesel and gasoline, but is still controlling cooking gas, wheat and sugar prices because of political sensitivity. (Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Toby Chopra)