MCR&PC member sees growth of Moroccan farming firsthand

Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC) member Chad Willis recently joined the U.S. Grains Council in Morocco to see the country’s emerging ag sector up close and its opportunities for American agricultural exports.

The group of U.S. corn, sorghum, barley and livestock farmers visited the facilities and farms that support Moroccan agriculture, which employs nearly 40 percent of the country’s labor force. While historically farming was limited to people only producing enough to feed their families, Willis said the group’s tour focused on developing infrastructure around modern farming.

Willis said the group had an opportunity to see the country’s model poultry and beef sector, which was developed over the last 25 years with the help of USGC.

For example, USGC worked with a local dairy cooperative to build model feedlots that can be used by local livestock farmers. The feedlot was the impetus for the development of a larger ruminant feed promotion program that now produces more than 1.2 million metric tons of ruminant feeds annually in Morocco. These successes have been used by USGC as a blueprint to develop other African countries.

The work to build the country’s ag sector, combined with a 2006 free-trade agreement with the United States, has made Morocco a steady importer of corn and DDGS. As its poultry, feed milling and beef sectors continue to come of age and enter a dynamic growth period, Willis said the country will only grow as an exporter of American grains.

But while the work of USGC to grow the Moroccan market was apparent, Willis said it was eye opening to see the barriers that still need to be overcome. For example, Morocco still lacks solid infrastructure to move grain, still relying on individual grain trucks to transport corn and more after it is imported.

Overall, Willis said he was impressed with the passion of Moroccans who work in agriculture and their determination to modernize their processes.

“Their passion for improving farming was very obvious and great to see firsthand,” Willis said. “From Grains Council staff to individual farmers, they are all dedicated to strengthening agriculture in their country and see how imports can help with that.”

Willis, who farms near Willmar, is a member of the USGC board of directors and a representative for USGC since 2013.

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