Cigi CEO says project will allow organization to help develop new markets for Canadian durum wheat and pulses in North African countries
The Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi) is taking its durum technical training program to North Africa thanks to $6.4 million in federal funding.
The funding will be used to deliver training — historically offered at its downtown Winnipeg building — at L’Institut de Formation de l’industrie Meunière, a training site in Casablanca owned by the Moroccan National Federation of Millers.
“We’re taking the knowledge transfer that we do here in Winnipeg, and delivering that right there in Casablanca,” said Earl Geddes, chief executive officer for Cigi.
It’s hoped the project will pave the way for increased trade with a significant trade partner, he said.
The five-year training commitment is aimed at building the skills of Moroccan millers so they can achieve optimum flour quality. Durum wheat is used to make pasta and couscous in the country.
The opportunity enables Cigi to offer training to potentially hundreds more than they could in Winnipeg, Geddes said, adding the idea arose from conversations with Morocco about the increased difficulty North Africans have trying to get visas to come here.
“On any given year, we’ll see 20 to 40 people from Algeria or Morocco or North Africa at Cigi,” he said.
“What we saw as the opportunity here was — instead of touching 15 or 20 North African parcipants each year through our programming in Winnipeg — to touch 200 or more right on site in North Africa.”
The closer-to-home training will offer vocational training, information, as well as technical expertise and applied research services to the durum wheat sector in Morocco and other North African countries, boosting employment and increasing the economic value of the country’s domestic durum industry.
There is high demand in Morocco for skilled employees in the country’s milling industry and desire to see milling practices improved and modernized, an area in which Canadian expertise is widely recognized, according to a government news release.
The initiative will also create training opportunities for a much broader cross-section of people, Geddes said.
“There will be women and young people and men from right across North Africa coming in.”
Canadian Western Amber durum wheat is Canada’s largest agricultural export to Morocco. Canadian exports to the country totalled $220 million in 2012.
The other key component of the project focuses on the processing and use of pulse crops, and that could also increase sales of Canadian pulses in North Africa, Geddes said.
“We’ll have this vastly expanded contact with potential customers of Canadian grain, both durum and spring wheat, and pulses,” he said.
The training facility, built a number of years ago by the U.S. Wheat Associates, specializes in training and technical assistance in cereals. Cigi plans to partner with the Moroccan millers’ federation.
“We’re identifying key technical people in their industry that we can bring here to Winnipeg to do the train-the-trainer work,” Geddes said “Then they’ll have people on the ground that can continue to do this fairly intensive kind of technical training right there in Casablanca for the region.”
The program is called the Capacity Building for Milling Durum Wheat and Pulse Crops project.