As USSEC Celebrates 15th Birthday, Growth of Morocco Market Demonstrates Success

As it celebrates its 15th year, USSEC’s work in Morocco has helped to make that emerging market a success not just in the Middle East/North Africa region, but also globally, as demand for U.S. Soy continues to grow there.

When the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) was founded in 2005, the organization’s programs initially focused on improving soybean meal quality, expanding knowledge of analytical methods, and implementing evaluation techniques that helped to measure soy product quality. Morocco is just one market that has benefitted from USSEC’s assistance in trade and technical support, its work in market access, and its help in forging relationships between buyers and sellers of U.S. Soy.

One year later, in 2006, the implementation of the Morocco-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) brought a substantial reduction in production costs as a result of lower tariffs on soybean meal. USSEC’s promotion of U.S. Soy shifted to demonstration trials that established the importance and efficient use of soy products in poultry feed. The results of these demonstrations highlighted that adequately formulated broiler and turkey diets entirely based on vegetable protein sources such as U.S. soybean meal sustained comparable growth performance as compared to other protein sources such as fish meal. Strategic partners took note. As use in compound feed production increased, fears of higher soybean meal inclusion rates progressively disappeared. As a result, several Moroccan customers became regular users of U.S. soybean meal in broiler, table egg, and turkey feed. As efforts continued to build quality awareness, several feed mills hired nutritionists and quality control managers, bringing a deeper appreciation of U.S. Soy’s quality advantages.

Poultry demand, the largest and main driver of soy products in Morocco, represents more than 54% of the meat consumed in this market. Highlighting the benefitsof using hipro soybean meal in poultry diets such as an adequatedigestible amino acids profile led to a higher demand from the feed sector, which moved away from locally available high fiber lopro soybean meal. In-house seminars and other events further encouraged the use of U.S. hiprosoybean meal in poultry diets essentially based on corn and soybean meal. Most mills began to request hipro soybean meal for their turkey and broiler feed. For farm mixers, table egg producers were later convinced. Higher inclusion rates were adopted as other protein sources rates declined.

As Moroccan feed millers visited U.S. enterprises that produced, sold, and used soybean meal, connecting with suppliers, their knowledge of U.S. soybean meal attributes further expanded. USSEC and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) efforts were further strengthened as no government policies, market barriers, or logistics issues hindered soy products’ usage or trade in Morocco. Today, all U.S. soy products, including refined soy oil, enjoy a zero duty (the duty for non-U.S. products is 2.5%). Early on, Morocco was the only consistent user of U.S. soybeans in the Maghreb region; the country continues to be unique with imports of all components of the soy complex (beans, meal, oil, and hulls). USSEC regional training of risk management strategies provided buyers with an overview of the basics and enhanced knowledge and skills of price tools. One-on-one consultations with purchasing and risk management teams allowed leading companies in this market to gain confidence and secure procurement from the U.S.

As specific programs continued to emphasize and develop understanding of quality in soybean meal use with a strong support of feed formulation, improved purchasing, buying and hedging strategies, along with other technical support led to a growing preference of U.S. soybean meal. In 2007, efforts concentrated on the proper measurement of protein quality in soybean meal to differentiate soy products of U.S. origin. The promotion continued with use of compound feed based on soy products in intensive ruminant farming, essentially dairy.

Technical Support Creates Preference for U.S. Soy

In 2015, U.S. soybean meal enjoyed a 100% market share in Morocco, thanks to FTA, FAS, and USSEC efforts. That year, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco Dwight Bush opened the 2nd Poultry Roundtable for the Maghreb feed industry. The first ever high-level embassy engagement reflected this market’s importance to U.S. commercial interests and aimed to strengthen the image of the U.S. to Morocco as a major supplier of high-quality soybeans and soy products.

Addressing customers’ issues and needs and by generating greater awareness among end users that U.S. soybean meal is a reliable, trusted, and consistent quality source of essential amino acids remains the primary goal. The 1st Roundtable for Soy Oil Processors also highlighted soy oil usage of 60% (at the time) of total vegetable oil consumption. The importance of U.S. soy oil due to its higher quality and its differential advantages such as lower refining losses, insured quality, and logistics further assisted processors. Today, Maghreb remains the largest marketplace for soybean oil consumption in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, where it is the predominant vegetable oil. U.S. refined soy oil, as do all other U.S. soy products, also benefits today from a 0% duty rate. Most users know U.S. quality and prefer U.S. soybean meal and soy oil. The knowledge of USSEC members and allied industries worldwide increased as well.

In 2017, the first industrial extruder installed offered a new soy ingredient incorporated in several feeds, creating new imports of beans from the U.S., a major supplier of high-quality soybeans and soy products. USSEC’s promotional activities led to production and utilization of quality full fat soybeans (FFS), strengthening market diversification efforts. U.S. beans are preferred for their homogeneity, cleanliness, and relative ease of process. Adequately processed FFS obtained from U.S. beans are of clearer color and supply consistent quality nutrients.

In April 2017, a certificate of recognition of U.S. Soy’s sustainability produced following the production protocol outlined in the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) was signed during the 4th Poultry Roundtable for Maghreb’s feed industry with Moroccan Federation of Poultry Associations (FISA) and Feed Manufacturers Association (AFAC). Both organizations are very aware of the value and strength of the U.S. supply chain and the high value and quality of U.S. SBM.

Maintaining U.S. market share was another issue when import duties were reduced from 22.5% to 2.5% for South American soybean meal; impacted U.S. market share consequently fell to 35% for soybean meal, eventually rebounding to about 40% in 2018 in a market of700,000 tons (over 90% imported). Feed production had one of the highest growth ratesin an area which sustained larger productions of poultry meat and table eggs, respectively.

Building Relationships: Connecting U.S. Soy Suppliers and Buyers

Moroccan professionals also attended major USSEC events held regionally, including the last Europe / MENA U.S. Soy Regional Trade Exchange, during which U.S. Soy celebrated its 50-year relationship with Europe[AS-A1] . USSEC Regional Director – EU/MENA Brent Babb emphasized U.S. Soy’s sustainable aspects and the continuous efforts of U.S. farmers to supply quality products to their customers worldwide. Connecting U.S. suppliers with local buyers and users has been key to developing successful trade relations. USSEC continues to create a large customer base for U.S. Soy in different market segments, developing partnerships with federations, associations, and other organizations. Collaborative efforts with industries have greatly contributed to the expansion and growth of the largest U.S. soybean meal buyer in MENA and Europe today.

USSEC continues toaccompany the development of animal industries in partnership with professionals through targeted activities highlighting the U.S. as a major supplier of high-quality soybeans and products and the importance and strength of its soy industry. The organization diversifies and develops demand in partnership with different actors in the poultry, dairy, aqua, oil, and feed industries starting with education and training. Expanding knowledge and developing innovative reactive strategies to convince new customers and young professionals of U.S. soybean products of the U.S. Soy Advantage helps maintain and expand U.S. market share. Connecting U.S. suppliers with local buyers for business relationships, competing with other less sustainableprotein sources, and providing end users with reliable, trusted, consistent high-quality soy products are just a few of the numerous USSEC activities in this market. Promoting U.S. Soy’s excellent nutritional bundle, its sustainable production practices, and reliable supply is another objective. Working with potential segments leads to establish framework for success through capturing growth opportunities of each utilization area: meal, aqua, oil. Improving infrastructure, consolidation, integration, and efficiency adds to accompany the modernization and development of the poultry and feed industries (integrations) in large dairy operations and future emerging aquaculture projects.

USSEC’s Commitment to the Maghreb Market

USSEC has always highlighted the importance of Maghreb in the U.S. soy value chain and closely worked with the livestock sector led by the poultry and feed industries in Maghreb markets providing numerous feed and animal production teams with training and technical assistance. This working relationship has paid off as U.S. soy products have traditionally enjoyed a dominant market share, sometimes as much as 100% during some years for soybean meal. Increasing knowledge of the strengths and intrinsic advantages of U.S. soy products to end users in the Moroccan poultry industry has helped to fend off South American competition and help maintain U.S. market share.

U.S. Soy has a significant competitive advantage: users appreciate U.S. soybean meal for its nutrient profile and quality. Efforts continue to move from a price-driven market based on protein content to more quality- (essential amino acids) oriented users. “Expand the Pie,” “Move the Needle,” “What it Takes” and, most recently, “Dare to Compare” and “U.S. Soy is Open for Business” are all incentives to help build preference and differentiate U.S. Soy from other origins. Diversified and innovative activities have been implementedsuch asparticipation at international events such as soy summits, trade exchanges, expos, AOCS, conferences, workshops, buyers’ teams, risk management sessions, roundtables, companies’ visits, oil processing courses, technical assistance, and training courses in oil, poultry, dairy, and other ruminant feed.

The U.S. supply chain ensures a reliable supply through sustainable practices on multi-generation family farms. USSEC pursues its partnership with livestock, poultry, feed, and refining industries contributing to sustainable food security and safety. Connecting customers with suppliers enables sound buying decisions and builds preference needed to improve productivity and efficiency. The number of fully integrated poultry groups has doubled in a few years and leaders are engaged in the import and storage of raw materials, feed production, hatcheries, rearing and slaughter, poultry meat processing, and recently in the development of other African markets.

With a feed output of 4.4 million tons (75% for poultry, the main user of U.S. soybean meal), Morocco produces 625,000 tons of broilers and 107,000 tons of turkey meats and about 6.1 billion eggs. As the market develops, people’s living standards and their diets improve, demand for protein and cooking oil rises, boosting soy usage. The poultry market is expected to gradually move from traditional wet markets to higher value processed products. Changing eating habits, e-commerce, and home deliveries announce shifts in consumption. Addressing long-term issues to boost consumption is a challenge because over 92% of broilers and 10% of turkeys are currently still in the live bird market.

Staying Committed Virtually

Last year, one-on-one in-house workshops, technical visits, seminars, conferences, and roundtables contributed to increasing knowledge about the nutritional and economic benefits of the use of U.S. soy products in feeding programs. Since March 2020, USSEC’s virtual conferences, workshops, and webinars have offered an alternative during the pandemic to continue promoting U.S. Soy’s exceptional nutritional bundle, sustainable production practices, and reliable supply.

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production sector in the North Africa region; Morocco has great potential and opportunities to expand aquaculture activities. Although the poultry sector continues to be the primary driver of Morocco’s soybean meal market, aquaculture offers another attractive opportunity in a market which imports U.S. soybeans, soy hulls, soybean oil, and meal. In November 2020, USSEC organized a virtual workshop on aquaculture in Morocco, a first of its kind and original event in this market for fish and feed producers. USSEC consultant Mark Newman presented information to help Moroccan fish farmers achieve success, which in turn could lead to increased feed usage with significant inclusion levels of U.S. soy products. Newman also highlighted the need to base fish feed on high quality vegetable proteins sources such as US hipro soybean meal and soy protein concentrates in sustainable soy-based fish feed. Seventeen key professionals learned more about the use and sustainability of U.S. soy products in fish feed; discussions covered specifications and inclusion rates of soy products in supplying available nutrients in feed for different growth phases of marine fish species and best feed management practices. Questions focused on the use of plant-based feed ingredients to replace fish meal in aquaculture diets. Other future events updating recent developments and use of US soy products in fish feed will be organized. As Morocco’s emerging aquaculture industry continues to grow and progress, so will the importance of sharing U.S. Soy as a highly valuable component of aqua feed. 

And in December 2020, USSEC’s 2nd dairy nutrition and feeding webinar helped Moroccan professionals to learn more about the U.S Soy Advantage and feeding dairy herds. 14 key operation managers, and dairy nutritionists learned more about U.S. soybean meal and bypass soy. U.S. soybean farmer and American Soybean Association (ASA) director Brad Macauley presented his dairy operation located in Geneseo, New York, a first-of-its-kind input in a dairy event held in this market. He explained the importance of sustainable practices with emphasis on feeding his dairy herd and provided feedback to attendees’ technical questions. Use of high-quality protein sources such as U.S. soybean meal remains a key component for improvement of dairy feed nutrient supply high performance and optimum health, according to consultant David Gast, who also stated that besides optimizing nutrition, overall management needs to be improved to obtain good performance. This Q & A session focused on high-quality dietary digestible bypass protein, cost-efficient ingredients compared to other sources for dairy farms and feed mills in Morocco, the most prosperous dairy sector in North Africa. The webinar conference recommended US hipro SBM as a valuable ingredient for use in dairy rations for improved animal productivity and efficiency of nutrient utilization. Bypass SBM also provide a viable, profitable, sustainable option to increase metabolizable proteins levels in pre- and post-partum rations. For USSEC, working with potential segments like the dairy sector leads to establish framework for success through capturing specific growth opportunities.

USSEC’s long-term investment in the Moroccan market has helped to build the relationships and continues to fuel demand and growth for U.S. Soy.

A Moroccan soybean trade team visited Norfolk, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana in March 2019. The visiting team, composed of soybean meal and soy oil users, met with U.S. suppliers and allied industries to learn more about the strength, reliability, and sustainability of the U.S. soybean value chain from fields to shipping, along with the quality advantages of U.S. soy products.