Interview: Hassan Sentissi
What should the priorities be in the development of the fishing industry in the south?
HASSAN SENTISSI: Although the fisheries sector has undergone many improvements, it still has unrealised potential and many unexploited opportunities. In order to develop the sector, several actions should be taken. It is essential to modernise the fishing fleet, improve the conditions for the fishermen and enhance the quality of catches. Also, we need to have better laboratories available in the region. Another important point is the need to overhaul port infrastructure to ensure it is suited to requirements. Similarly, the problem of electricity supply needs to be resolved by establishing power grids that are connected to renewable energy. This will reduce costs, but also avoid repeated load shedding.
The sector would also benefit from incentives to create products with greater added-value, and the development of a local packaging industry. Lastly, there is a need to improve existing training centres and introduce specialised training for the various fishing professions.
How can export competitiveness be improved?
SENTISSI: Chemical and microbiological analyses carried out in Casablanca are a real obstacle to export, causing delays that undermine competitiveness. The lack of knowledge of the latest packaging procedures can also be considered as a burden. The poor infrastructure and the long distances that separate cities like Dakhla and Laâyoune from the rest of the country make the logistics costs much higher than in the rest of the country. Finally, for canned fish industries, the virtual absence of metal can production units leads to significant delays and additional costs.
How can the government encourage research and development (R&D) in the industrial fishing sector?
SENTISSI: There are several ways the government can encourage the private sector to become further invested in R&D. Firstly, the quality of raw materials delivered to processing plants should be improved, since in order to make new products with greater added value, the delivered raw materials need to be of very good quality. Also, the implementation of banking services which are beneficial and tailored to company’s R&D needs would also be an encouraging factor. Another good measure would be to partner with our federation to launch a broad awareness campaign among businesses in the sector to encourage R&D. Finally, we should consider the establishment of a team that reports to the Agadir Development Centre to assist companies in assembling and setting up their R&D units.
In terms of human resources, what are the main challenges facing the fisheries sector?
SENTISSI: The sector is experiencing a substantial deficit in terms of human resources. Skills and knowledge are limited to traditional fishing professions and the level of technical and scientific expertise is low.
This makes it hard to recruit in the southern provinces, and has the effect of increasing costs, since companies need to carry out recruiting in other regions in Morocco, as well as bringing recruits to cities like Dakhla or Laâyoun, and this generally entails covering their transfer, housing and paying them higher wages.
What is your evaluation of the fishing agreements?
SENTISSI: With regards to the fishing agreements signed by Morocco and other countries, my view is that we need to put local processing units first. Any remaining catch could be distributed after dialogue with third-party countries affected by the agreements.
What type of incentives might help to encourage greater private investment in the south?
SENTISSI: As the fisheries processing industries are highly focused on export, our recommendation is that these companies receive full exemption from value-added tax on investment and exports. Furthermore, we propose a free zone in the region, in order to attract a maximum number of investors, both domestic and foreign.
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