The new crop mission to North Africa in December brought news of an excellent Canadian durum wheat crop to the major customer countries of Morocco and Algeria.
“This year the durum quality is absolutely amazing,” says Dean Dias, Cigi Director of Value Chain Relations, who was a member of the mission team that also included representatives from Cereals Canada and the Canadian Grain Commission, as well as a farmer and exporter. “This year we have over 91% of CWAD graded #1 and #2, last year only 20% was in the top two grades. We have never seen quality this good for durum, ever.”
Millers and processors in North Africa value the quality that CWAD brings to high-end couscous and pasta products, particularly the bright yellow colour which is an important quality trait, he says. Couscous is a popular traditional North African dish made from durum semolina, produced by milling the kernel’s endosperm. It is cooked by steaming and usually served with meat and vegetables.
Higher quality products are made from 100% CWAD while, particularly in Algeria which produces more pasta, lesser quality products may be processed from a blend with durum from other origins for domestic use or export. CWAD is blended infrequently with other durum in Morocco but may be done when availability of higher grade CWAD is limited. More couscous is produced in Morocco than in Algeria.
Algeria was the top CWAD importer in 2016-17 at 1.26 million tonnes (MT) while Morocco was the third largest importer (next to Italy) at 695,000 MT.
Dean says that during the mission in Morocco a meeting was held with Institut de Formation de l’industrie Meunière (IFIM) which over the last several years has worked on a project with Cigi to train lab and milling technical personnel in Morocco on milling and analysis of Canadian durum and the use of pulses in Moroccan food products. As a result, IFIM’s experience in dealing with the Canadian system of evaluating durum varieties has prompted them to begin a program to investigate local durum wheat quality.
“That is part of relationship building which goes a long way in Morocco and Algeria,” he says. “Farmers in Canada are not just growing any variety, they are growing what customers want.”
He says customers at the seminar in Morocco gave positive feedback on the Canadian crop quality this year. “They know Canada offers the best durum, so they are consistent loyal customers of Canadian wheat.”
In Morocco the group also toured a plant that uses exclusively Canadian durum for their high-quality brand couscous, Dean says. “They were pretty proud of using 100% Canadian durum.”
When in Algeria the mission team visited Office Algerien Interprofessionnel des Cereales (OAIC), a government body responsible for the country’s wheat purchases which also invited their local industry to attend the new crop seminar, attracting 110 participants. Algeria usually buys No. 2 or 3 CWAD so were assured Canadian exporters can still meet their requirements.
“Even in a good year, it is important for us to be there, for them to see we have experts available and to have an opportunity to discuss the current state of their market face-to-face,” Dean says, adding that the representatives from the Canadian value chain worked well together on the mission. “We understood each other’s strengths, that all customers’ questions could be answered by directing them to the right members of the team.”