Cigi Morocco durum and pulse project underway

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Morocco project signing event

Representatives from Cigi, Morocco’s National Federation of Flour Millers (FNM) and the Canadian Embassy gathered in Rabat on January 20 for an official signing of the project agreement outlining the collaboration between Cigi and FNM. Pictured left to right: Rick Morgan, Cigi; Chakib Alj, President (FNM) La Fédération Nationale de la Minoterie; Sandra McCardell, Ambassador of Canada to Morocco; Mohamed Jamaleddine, President L’Association Marocaine des Pâtes Alimentaires et Couscous (AMIPAC).

The first group of five milling students from Morocco arrived at Cigi today to begin four weeks of technical training in the milling of Canadian durum wheat.  The training marks the beginning of a five year, $6.4 million project funded by the Government of Canada that will see Cigi, in partnership with the Institut de Formation de l’industrie Meunière (IFIM), establish a Moroccan National Durum Technical Training Centre (DTTC) in Casablanca. The project was announced in October 2013.

The funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will allow Cigi to play an important role in the development of markets for Canadian durum wheat and pulses in North African countries.

Rick Morgan, Manager, Business Development at Cigi is responsible for managing the project. In this Q&A, which first appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Cigi’s e-publication, Rick talks about the project and what it entails.

Where did the idea for this project originate?
This project is really the result of the collective efforts of Morocco’s National Federation of Flour Millers (FNM) and Cigi. Cigi has a long-standing relationship with the Moroccan milling industry and we’ve provided technical training and advice in this region for many years. That experience, combined with the fact that Morocco is an important customer for Canadian durum and that Canada is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Morocco, led us to think about ways to expand upon what we are doing there.

Through FNM, the Institut de Formation de l’industrie Meunière (IFIM) in Morocco, which specializes in training and technical assistance in milling and quality control, approached Cigi about engaging in a technical partnership in 2012. We then worked with IFIM officials to develop a proposal that was submitted to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who shared it with the Canadian International Development Agency (now Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada) who were very interested in it.

From there we created a comprehensive proposal for a five-year project which was ultimately approved for funding from the Government of Canada.

What does the project entail?
We are creating a Durum Technical Training Centre (DTTC) within IFIM that will provide vocational training, information, technical expertise and applied research services to the durum wheat sector in Morocco. Over the course of the project the DTTC will also provide training to other North African countries including Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, as well as sub-Saharan Africa. There will also be a pulse crop component because pulses are widely grown in the region as part of the crop rotation and we will be looking to increase their knowledge of the many uses for pulse crops.

Is Cigi building a training centre in Morocco?
No, we will be using IFIM’s technical training centre in Casablanca; however, part of the project involves the purchase of equipment that is specific to working with durum wheat and pulses. Some of the training will also take place in Cigi’s facilities in Winnipeg.

Why is this training important to the region?
Morocco needs more people trained in milling durum wheat and who understand the link between durum semolina quality and how it affects the quality of end products like pasta and couscous. This is true for both the large mills located in the cities and the smaller mills based in rural areas. The same is also true for pulse crops, which are important in the rotation with durum wheat. We want to expand their capabilities to mill and manufacture healthy products using pulses.

How will the training be delivered?
We are using a ‘train the trainer’ approach so that we reach as many people as possible. So, for example, three times a year, five students chosen by IFIM will come to Cigi for four weeks of durum milling training. Those students will return to Morocco where they will apply their new found skills and teach others.

A Cigi milling specialist will then travel to Morocco for a three-week period to provide further training and support to the students. They will also help them prepare and deliver seminars for groups of local millers, industry members and farmers. We will use a similar approach for training those working in analytical testing roles.

At the end of the five years how many people do you expect will have been trained?
We expect we will have trained over 2,000 people. That includes those attending seminars in rural areas delivered by the students trained by Cigi staff who will reach farmers and people working in smaller mills and other processing facilities that are important to local economies.

Another important aspect of the project is the emphasis on training women and providing opportunities for young women and men to develop their skills. We are preparing them for employment in the milling industry as millers or laboratory technicians or quality managers or even to open small businesses producing local products using durum and pulses.

How will this project benefit Canadian farmers and industry members?
It is going to increase Canada’s profile in this market enormously. Ultimately, we expect sales of Canadian durum will rise and as a result of this project we are hoping to see the amount of Canadian durum milled in Morocco increase substantially. Morocco and other North African countries already import a sizeable amount of Canada Western Amber Durum wheat. We think there is potential to increase interest in Canadian pulses too. Overall, it makes sense for Canada and Cigi to be partnered with IFIM to provide training that can help grow this market.

The Q&A portion of this article was originally published in Cigi’s e-publication. To subscribe to future issues of Cigi.ca please click here.