High quality continues to give Canadian durum wheat an advantage in Morocco, but it has tough competition for other types of wheat, says a senior Moroccan grain trade official.
Mr. Abdellatif Izem, director of National Federation of Millers of Morocco, was in Winnipeg last month as part of a North African group attending a durum-milling program at the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi).
“High quality is critical for the Moroccan market, which is why Morocco generally buys Canadian,” Izem said.
In Morocco, most durum is used for couscous, rather than pasta, its main use in Europe and North America.
“Moroccan consumers buy couscous with colour in mind, and couscous made from Canadian durum gives a bright-yellow colour,” Izem said.
He said the country imports about 600,000 tonnes of durum per year, and in most years Morocco is one of the top three importers of Canadian durum.
For other classes of wheat, Morocco is generally seen as a price-sensitive market, Izem said. Canadian wheat must compete with origins from the U.S. as well as the Black Sea and EU, which have a significant freight advantage. It is also more economical for EU suppliers to provide smaller container volumes which are favoured by the smaller mills.
Morocco’s per capita wheat consumption, at 258 kg per year, is one of the world’s highest, and it imports an average of about two million tonnes per year. Its own production is highly variable, depending on rainfall. It produced an average of 4.5 million tonnes over the past 10 years, but under good conditions combined wheat and durum production can reach 6.5 million tonnes.
Their current crop is growing under favourable conditions. An April 16 assessment from the USDA said “Crop prospects remain excellent in Morocco, where timely rainfall and lack of temperature extremes have favoured the development of wheat and barley, which is now approaching or in the filling stage.”
While the bumper crop will undoubtedly reduce import demand in the current year, long-term relationships are critical to ongoing Canadian sales, say Cigi officials, who are working to maintain customer relationships following changes to the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly last year.
“You can’t sit on your laurels and expect customers to come to you. You must maintain on-going relationships,” said business development manager Rick Morgan.
Cigi had a new-crop mission to Morocco in January of this year as well as the week-long program for 19 North African milling and processing customers in Winnipeg this month.
Morgan said that the program with North African users would continue on an annual or biannual basis.