Interview: Mohammed Fikrat
To what extent is the new programme contract promoting the development of the agri-food sector?
MOHAMMED FIKRAT: The programme contract for the development of agri-food industries was signed in April 2017 between the Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fishing, Rural Development, Water and Forests; the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and Digital Economy; the Ministry of Economy and Finance; the Moroccan Confederation of Agriculture and Rural Development; FENAGRI; and other interprofessional groups.
The contract is the culmination of lengthy negotiations between various agri-food actors and should help the development of the entire industry. Over the course of five years, it plans to create more than 300 divisions, generate 38,500 jobs and add Dh41.8bn (€3.76bn) of turnover, Dh12.5bn (€1.12bn) of exports and Dh13.1bn (€1.18bn) of added value. Its overall financial impact has been estimated at Dh12bn (€1.08bn), of which Dh8bn (€719.52m) will be provided by private professionals.
The programme contract was built on the findings of a strategic study of the sector carried out jointly by professionals and public partners. The main measures adopted relate to supporting investment and exports, promoting Moroccan products in local and foreign markets, and supporting vocational training and research and development (R&D). This latter component is a point of emphasis, since the programme contract is meant to help file 80 patents and 200 technical studies and create 60 R&D programmes.
How is the agri-food sector continuing to develop?
FIKRAT: The entire sector has significant export potential. Some industries – in particular, the fish canning and vegetable canning segments – are already more focused on exports, as they were able to develop a profitable foreign market share early on and continue to do so. Others, such as the milling, white and red meat, dairy, sugar and vegetable oil industries are focused on satisfying the commodity needs of the local market.
Lately, thanks to the Green Morocco Plan and the Industrial Acceleration Plan, we have seen all these sectors starting to export increasingly significant volumes to international and regional markets. The EU has historically been and remains our most important partner, as it annually absorbs nearly 70% of all Moroccan exports, though in recent years, and in the wake of royal visits, we have also observed the favourable development of agri-food exports to African markets.
In addition, important destinations like the Middle East are beginning to open more to Moroccan exporters due to the growth of halal market shares. Various specialists believe that the halal segment already represents nearly 16% of the global agri-food industry, and Morocco finds itself in an excellent position to benefit from this. As a predominantly Muslim country, it has the legitimacy and expertise to supply the market. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of all the relevant organisations, including the Moroccan Institute of Standardisation, Morocco has developed a halal standard that is now recognised in high-demand markets.
What policies and practices have been adopted by the agri-food sector to guarantee product safety?
FIKRAT: Food safety is a priority because it is a serious public health issue. FENAGRI is engaged in the sector to ensure that Moroccan products meet the high-quality standards required by safety regulations.
In tangible terms, the federation operates on two levels. First, we work closely with the National Office of Food Safety, which is in charge of regulating and assuring domestic food safety, to jointly identify areas of improvement and to make suggestions to strengthen our regulations. Second, we work with the industry and agri-food professionals to raise awareness regarding the importance of complying with industry standards, regulations and best practices. It is a long-term goal that includes addressing the challenge of reducing the volume of informal products that escape regulations.
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