Food industry. Eyad Sobh: “The program contract is being finalized”

Food industry. Eyad Sobh: “The program contract is being finalized”
Food industry. Eyad Sobh: “The program contract is being finalized”

The challenges to be met and the opportunities to be seized to promote Moroccan agri-food products are numerous. Eyad Sobh, chairman of the Fenagri Foreign Trade Committee, returns to these issues.

Challenge: The 2017-2021 agri-food industries program contract was a real “boost” for the sector. When will the next roadmap be eagerly awaited by professionals in the agri-food industries?

Eyad Sobh: The program contract is currently being prepared. This roadmap on which FENAGRI and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce are currently working, which will undoubtedly provide more visibility, is being finalized.

Challenge: A quantitative and qualitative study of the 2017-2021 program contract was entrusted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to the firm Naos Consulting, which, in addition to evaluating the program, must develop recommendations and scenarios for after 2021 Where are we in this study?

ES: This evaluation of the 2017-2021 program contract was carried out and supports us for the launch of the new program contract, which normally was to be launched in 2021, but with the Covid-19 pandemic and the number of stakeholders, this took more time than expected. As I told you, the program contract is being finalized and should see the light of day this year.

Read also | Food industry. The challenge of processing agricultural products

Challenge: Overall, what are FENAGRI’s expectations in relation to the establishment of a new 2024-2030 roadmap for the development of the agri-food industries? What should this new roadmap focus on?

ES: There are many strategic axes, pillars on which we work. One of these most important areas remains the development of human resources. We are working to emphasize this aspect. It is essential to make locally produced products more competitive than imports.

The Moroccan market is very open. Both in Morocco and internationally, we face tough competition. Qualified human resources and investments in production capacities for competitiveness, driven by innovation and research and development for new products and reducing costs, will help us meet all these challenges.

Challenge: Currently, the processing rate of agricultural products barely reaches 20% and it is expected to rise to 70% by 2030 as part of the Generation Green strategy. Is the current industrial fabric ready? What actions should be taken to reach the 70% hoped for by 2030?

ES: This is exactly the industrial objective. It is our role as an industrialist to increase the share of agricultural product processing. 70% is an ambitious goal that we are all working towards to achieve this rate. In addition to the current capacity, the establishment of new industrial units and the extension of existing ones should help in achieving this objective.

However, achieving these transformation objectives presupposes the satisfaction of certain prerequisites, including in particular the strengthening of the competitiveness of our products, the promotion of “made in Morocco”, the improvement and organization of marketing circuits, the consolidation of our historic markets and prospecting of new international markets, among others.

Read also | Unemployment rate reaches new heights, hemorrhage in the agricultural sector

Challenge: Often, comparative advantage also dictates orientation towards local production or rather the external market, as is the case for oranges, industrial tomatoes, almonds, etc. What do you think ?

ES: Absolutely ! Local processing concerns all of our agricultural production. You talked about tomatoes, oranges, almonds, etc., all Moroccan agricultural production would benefit from being processed locally before being exported. And it is the role of the agri-food industry in Morocco and that of our federation to support its members to upgrade and capture this transformation locally by helping local investors and attracting foreign investors to this sector.

Challenge: FENAGRI carried out a study on local sourcing opportunities for manufactured inputs, which revealed that Moroccan agri-food industries use the equivalent of 10 billion DH of imported manufactured inputs annually. Why is this Source of opportunities for substituting these imports not being exploited?

ES: It is not yet exploited. It is in the process of being. It must be said that this study was carried out above all to pinpoint the opportunities. This is to encourage investors to grab these. Moreover, this study was carried out in a more global framework with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. This made it possible to identify processed products imported for substitution projects. Since then, this has constituted a Source of opportunities to substitute these imports or at least part of it in the form of new investment projects at the local level, which will strengthen the local integration of this sector and also its competitiveness, without forgetting the impact on job creation.

Read also | Plant varieties: A necessity for the development of agriculture in Morocco

Challenge: According to the ministry, around 400 agri-food industrial investment projects have been identified within the framework of the project bank to benefit from investment support through the mechanisms provided for under the industrial recovery plan, with a forecast investment amount of more than 10.25 billion DH. How do Moroccan operators and investors see these opportunities?

ES: I would like to point out that these are real industrial investment opportunities. The State has implemented a certain number of important measures concerning the promotion of investment within the framework of the Agricultural Development Fund and the Industrial Development and Investment Fund, or via the Moroccan Agency for the Development of Investments and of Exports (AMDIE). This will allow the establishment of new industrial units and the extension of existing ones. It is therefore obvious that these mechanisms encourage Moroccan investors who have priority, but also foreign investors who are welcome. Why not seek them out to invest in Morocco and have this local production capacity, rather than importing processed products.

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