Cigi milling program offers Moroccan graduates experience working with Canadian durum

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Moroccan milling graduate Abdelmajid Jallali tastes noodles made with Canadian wheat at Cigi.

Moroccan milling graduate Abdelmajid Jallali tastes noodles made with Canadian wheat at Cigi.

Since the first group of Moroccan milling students arrived at Cigi in early 2014, several more groups have followed to learn about the milling and analysis of Canadian durum wheat and about the use of pulses in Moroccan food products. Recently a group of four top milling graduates selected from Morocco’s Institut de Formation de l’industrie Meunière (IFIM) and one Masters university graduate in food technology and health with a focus on pulses completed a two-week technical training session at Cigi.

The current training is part of the third year of a five-year joint project between Cigi and IFIM in Morocco to establish a National Durum Technical Training Centre in Casablanca. The project was made possible through $6.4 million in funding from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. Up to 2,000 people are expected to complete training at Cigi and in seminars held in Morocco by both Cigi staff and those trained through the project.

Morocco and other North African countries are significant customers of Canadian durum which is used for couscous and pasta products, says Rick Morgan, Special Projects Advisor at Cigi. Morocco imported 736,700 tonnes of Canadian durum in 2013-14 (followed by Algeria at 649,700 tonnes and Tunisia at 257,500 tonnes). The project is designed to train people in Morocco to better understand quality characteristics of Canadian durum and how end products are affected, as well as to increase knowledge of other Canadian wheat classes and the uses of pulses as healthy ingredients.

“The recent group are post graduates who haven’t been employed in any mills yet who will take what will be considered valuable experience at Cigi to add to their CVs,” Rick says, adding that their new knowledge of Canadian grain could have a positive impact in their future positions. “It benefits their industry because they’re here learning about the Canadian industry, the quality of our durum and how it works in Moroccan end products and pasta; understanding the role of the Canadian Grain Commission, quality control and the consistency our system offers. So when they work in mills they can say we should use Canadian durum because of these things we have seen.”

Rime Sai, who has a Master’s degree in food technology and health says she finds value in her recent training at Cigi which will help her discuss Canadian grain when home in Morocco. “I can talk about the top notch quality of Canadian grain because we received a lot of information on how it is well treated. We’re grateful to be here and be part of a program that is really rich in information.”

She says one highlight of the training for her was lab analysis of wheat. In addition to her interest in pulses as ingredients she also would like to work with durum in the future. “In my search for more knowledge about pulses, I’ve also learned about wheat and wheat processing which is a plus for me.”

Abdelmajid Jallali, who graduated as a specialized milling technician, says he also learned a lot about Canadian wheat at Cigi, especially about grading and quality factors as well as storage methods. He was especially interested in learning about durum wheat processing and pasta making.

“I liked the quality of the training,” says Abdelmajid. “It’s important for people from Morocco to get training in a place like Canada. The experience also adds value to their resume.”

Rick says some former participants in this program are now delivering seminars on milling and analytical testing at IFIM, reaching Moroccans working in mills and processing facilities. “We have done a train-the-trainer approach with other more experienced groups that we expect to do again with others from IFIM and industry.”

Another important component of the project is to train women to improve their employment opportunities in the milling industry or other related endeavours in that country, he says. Since the project began, 25 women have participated in formal training sessions at Cigi and IFIM and a number of others in Morocco have attended seminars.

Currently, a Cigi staff member is in Morocco to teach representatives from local mills about milling Canadian wheat and the different milling systems used in the process.

Rick says the program so far has helped reinforce and increase awareness of Canadian durum and pulses in this important market for Canada.

(For a video on the project click on https://cigi.ca/cigi-tv-morocco-training-program/ and additional background at https://cigi.ca/cigi-morocco-durum-and-pulse-project-underway/ )

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Rime Sai and other Moroccan participants examine pasta processed in Cigi’s pilot pasta plant during the program.