Grain institute trains Moroccan milling experts

Build exports | CIGI will provide technical information and technology to help Morocco improve durum quality

WINNIPEG — Milling experts from Morocco and Canada are swapping knowledge, hoping to boost both countries’ durum-based industries.

“The sector in Morocco is experiencing a big boom and so the industry is always looking for training and technology,” said Abdeslam Acharki, who works with a durum and wheat importing organization in Morocco.

“We want to take some of the knowledge in (the Canadian International Grains Institute) and bring it back home and show it to the industry.”

CIGI and Morocco’s Institut de Formation de L’industria Meuniere are working together to establish a durum technical milling program in Casablanca to boost Morocco’s burgeoning high-quality milling and processing industry.

All of the Maghreb region of northwestern Africa is a big buyer of Canadian durum, but Morocco has long had a sophisticated milling and cous cous-pasta-manufacturing industry, making it a regional centre for expertise and exports.

The country hopes to boost the quality of durum flour and processed goods for the domestic market and for its export markets in Africa, Europe and South America.

Five Moroccans were in Winnipeg in early March as part of a new, five-year program funded by the federal foreign affairs, trade and development department.

The program will bring Moroccan professional millers to CIGI for technical training and send CIGI staff to Morocco to offer programming there.

Rachid Chamcham, production technical manager for the Maghreb Group, said millers in his country want to be able to fine-tune their technical skills, but it’s hard to do inside busy mills that are in full production.

“We are testing things (here) that are difficult to test at a commercial or industrial mill,” said Chamcham, who attended another CIGI course in 1998. “We’re here with all these labs and facilities to test some things new that we can take home.”

Acharki said Moroccan millers are thrilled to see surging demand for their products but are anxious to keep up with increasingly higher quality demands.

“The consumer started to appreciate the quality,” said Acharki.

“That’s put pressure on the industry to do everything it can to increase the quality. It creates competition and elevates the entire industry.”

Yahya Moussa, head of the Moroccan milling education institute, said he wants the CIGI relationship to take Morocco to the next level of professionalism, which is key in building domestic and export demand.

“We’re aiming at having an institute in Morocco that has the same quality of instruction as would happen at CIGI,” said Moussa, who trained all the other Moroccans in the room.

The CIGI-Morocco program is based on a “train the trainers” approach that will give these professionals technical skills they can take back to Morocco and teach to dozens of other millers and processors.

Chamcham said Morocco’s existing milling education and training has created a pool of graduates that operate around the world. It also helps increase trade between his country and other markets.

He believes this program will spread that pool wider and make the connections deeper.

“Maybe we can exchange the experience of both countries and both institutes … and we’ll have the international reputation to give very good quality supporting people for the industry and the whole value chain,” said Chamcham.