RABAT - Morocco's trade deficit widened 56.5% to 311 billion dirhams ($ 30.6 billion) in 2022, boosted mainly by higher energy costs, data from the foreign exchange regulator showed on Thursday.

Imports rose 40% from a year earlier to 737 billion dirhams, while exports increased 30% to 426 billion dirhams, the regulator said in a monthly report.

Morocco's energy bill soared the most, up 104% to 153 billion dirhams, while the cost of wheat imports rose 81% to 25 billion dirhams after the worst drought in decades.

Morocco, which has the world’s largest phosphates reserves, reported a rise of 44% in exports of the mineral and its derivatives, including fertilisers, to 115.4 billion dirhams.

The automotive sector led industrial exports with 111 billion dirhams, up 33%.

Tourism revenue more than doubled to 91 billion dirhams, signaling a strong recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key to Morocco's inflow of hard currency, remittances from Moroccans abroad hit a new record of 109 billion dirhams, or an increase of 16.5%.

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)