Post-Brexit Africa

The agreement that Morocco has signed in recent days with United Kingdom, which will enter into force once Brexit concluded, aims to ” to restore in the context of the bilateral relations between Morocco and the United Kingdom, all the benefits that they granted each other under the Morocco-EU Association Agreement “. It follows that, from a common desire, the terms of the Association Agreement between Morocco and the EU would be transposed into the new framework of Morocco-British relations. This obviously includes trade in the agri-food sector, topic of interest for this blog. Now, if  the issue of “Quotas” for agricultural products (to which Morocco may be subject), which are essentially aimed at protecting the interests of the Euro-Mediterranean countries in the EU market, should not play a significant role in future commercial exchanges between Morocco and UK, it is going to be different concerning the question of standards (non-tariff barriers). Indeed, the British will be brought to recover all their latitude on the application of their own standards (momentarily in stand-by waiting for the divorce in question) of Sanitary Security of the Foods that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be reintroducing to British border posts as soon as the agreement signed between Morocco and the UK, mentioned above, enters into force. Since the UK is a net importer of agri-food products, particularly fresh products, our exporters must therefore prepare for this relatively close deadline to take advantage of the opportunities of this lucrative market like that of the USA. In this regard, the FSA‘s approach to protecting the health of the UK consumer and enforcing existing regulations is closer to the FDA‘s role for the US market than to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) for the common market. While the US and UK agencies have real power to intervene each in its target market to protect the consumer and enforce the law, EFSA simply has an advisory role to the Brussels Commission. The enforcement of the rules of each of the EU countries’ markets is strictly governed by the governmental laws of each member country. Many state reports from EU member states, or community bodies, show that enforcement of the Food Safety Law may differ significantly from one EU country to another.

As far as we are concerned in Morocco, this has meant that the vast majority of our food exporters to EU market have become accustomed to carrying out their operations according to French standards. In this context, the observation shows that it is not uncommon for a Bulletin of Laboratory Analyzes, completed on the basis of analyzes carried out on the taking of some samples, is sufficient, in the eyes of our Autonomous Establishment of Export Coordination and Control (EACCE), also known as “Morocco Foodex”, for authorizing the export of the entire batch manufactured to EU market. But this will most likely not be enough for exporting to the individualized UK market. Indeed, the FSA and FDA recognize the superiority of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), possibly supplemented by laboratory analyzes, as the standard for measuring the quality of a food product. This said, confirmation of the application of the HACCP system by a Food Production Unit requires certification by a Competent Authority. As a result, companies, Moroccan in particular and African in general, interested in exporting to the UK market, soon available to us, would do better to integrate from now on this unavoidable dimension of  certification of their “Processes”.

Second, the adoption of the HACCP approach will, beyond the UK market, improve the chances of our agribusiness companies to gain access to US market, which presents unique opportunities for our agri-food exporters, particularly for fresh produce. In this regard, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has for the first time put in place scientifically modeled rules for the trade (export for our purposes) of fresh fruit and vegetables (unprocessed) in the US market. In the case of farm-based products, prepared on the farm itself (but not processed), the commercial (export) rules to be respected are very flexible and do not involve additional costs for the management of the farm. The same situation applies to the products of a cooperative, or a set of cooperatives working in collaboration. These sanitary rules are hardened as soon as buyers domiciled elsewhere put themselves between the farm, or cooperative (s), and the US market. In this case, the work to be done by these people to conform FSMA, and the costs generated by this protocol, increase considerably. To put it simply, it is the end of the time when intermediaries, especially European ones, used to buy products from us (olives, capers, dried peppers and others) at ridiculous prices to resell them on the American market, after playing mainly with labeling, with huge margins. Moreover, the adoption by our exporting companies of the HACCP approach will familiarize them more with the reasoning in terms of risk that can pose the process of manufacturing a certain product in a given environment. This salutary effort will then be a valuable preamble to the adoption of HARPC (Hazard Analysis Risk-Based Preventive Control). This new system, which represents the cornerstone of the new US FSMA regulation, is built on the HACCP mode but applies, beyond HACCP-specific critical control points, to any stage or point (as shown by the hazard analysis) of the entire operations of the manufacturing  system in its environment, including cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices). In a way, it is a HACCP of wider application.

On another level, if the FDA, like the FSA besides, ensures respect of FSMA and consumer protection, the US Federal Agency puts full responsibility for the production of food compliant with the FSMA on the shoulders of American operators. With regard to imported products, it is the US importer that the law entrusts the task of ensuring by any appropriate means, described in the law, the conformity of the imported product with the requirements of FSMA. The good side of this regulation is that once their products are registered on the FDA‘s dedicated portal, our exporters no longer have to worry about the US administration but only deal with their US trading partner. In this perspective, the American importer and the Moroccan (African) exporter are both interested in their operations succeeding to bring profit to everyone. Less administrative worries save time, money and provide the peace of mind. We wish good luck to our African exporters with FSMA.