The NDM for boosting export

Morocco has started the implementation of the New Development Model (NDM) to which His Majesty King Mohammed VI called and which we talked about in a previous article (see here). Thus, the new Minister of National Education, Preschool and Sports, Mr. Chakib Benmoussa, has just overhauled the conditions for recruiting teachers to teach in Moroccan public schools. It is true that school training in Morocco requires urgent upgrading as this deficiency in Moroccan public schools has accompanied all governments for more than fifty years.

But other skills are better placed than us to comment on the ins and outs of this syndrome.

What holds attention for the moment is the serene and calm, but firm pedagogy with which Mr. Benmoussa approaches the overhaul of this complex project, which has been highly politicized by different political parties relayed by their respective unions. To use an image, we would say that the minister tries to make understand to whoever wants to listen that, in short, when a body is sick, that the diagnosis has been correctly made, the patient (here the teaching) must, for recovering, take the prescribed remedies without any other consideration.

Mr. Benmoussa argument seems reasonable and the Minister is already starting to have people of good will on his side.

That being said, we must not forget that NDM has brought to light many “other diseased bodies” in our economic fabric. It follows that, in addition to Mr. Benmoussa, it will be necessary to provide as many solvers to restore order in many of Morocco’s vital business sectors.

Regarding the poverty of our education, the Minister indicated, during an interview recently with a national television channel, that 70% of Moroccan fifteen-year-old students could neither read nor write correctly or perform operations of mathematics. In this respect, the level of performance of our agrifood sector is just as lackluster! Indeed, it only takes a quick stroll in a supermarket to see that more than 75 percent of the industrially produced food offered for sale is of foreign origin, or manufactured under license. This gives the measure of our very high dependence on the import of this important category of products and, as a consequence, the enormous delay that we must make up for in order to move closer to food sovereignty.

It is legitimate to recall here that the cruciality of food sovereignty for many countries has come to light during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

When it comes to Morocco where food raw materials, and other substances that go with them, are produced on our soil and in abundance, the impression that the average national consumer may have is that we are not good at implementing Processes to have food products with long shelf life. In a way, we would be dunces for this type of operation. This is all the more so since the processes for manufacturing such products are in the majority of cases in the public domain, and therefore accessible to everyone. As a corollary of this observation, opportunists, mainly Europeans, buy from us vegetables, fruits and other materials, very inexpensively (because they are perishable), make them long-lasting finished products and resell them to us at speculative prices generating for them amazing profit margins.

In this regard, in the trade agreement that binds us to the Europeans, our exports of agricultural products (of plant origin) are subject to quotas which limit our possibilities of exporting these products in volume and, being obliged to sell them off because they are perishable, the sale of these fresh products does not bring us much in value either. The agreement in question does not limit us for the export of long-lived processed products. But here too, our performance in the EU market is poor.

On this subject, it is interesting to note the divergence between the praise that the EU accreditation bodies, especially French ones, occasionally give for the work of our official food control bodies on the one hand and, on the other, the frequent blocking of entry into their markets of these same finished products already controlled in Morocco.

However, the mediocrity of our export services can also be seen in other foreign markets. Thus, Mr. Hassan Sentissi Idrissi, President of the Moroccan Association of Exporters (ASMEX) indicated in an interview dated February 2019 to the electronic newspaper Morocco World News that : “The free trade agreement between Morocco and the US has not been beneficial to Moroccan exporters, given the size of the US market and the complex procedures yet unfamiliar to Moroccan companies,”. Mr. Sentissi adds that: “This agreement should be reviewed in such a way as to consider the reality of Moroccan [small and medium-sized enterprises]”. In short, it is a call to the Americans to ask them to relax, and even water down, their rules for accessing the US market to make these rules more accessible to the exporting members mentioned by Mr. Sentissi.

Obviously, a manager is not prohibited from campaigning on behalf of the members of his association for more flexibility in the standards of access to a given market. But, Mr. Sentissi is well placed to know that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), American regulation for fresh and processed products in the agri-food sector, already in force at the time of his aforementioned interview, has provided innovative solutions to facilitate the access to US market for all companies in the agri-food sector, on an equal footing with their American colleagues. In fact, the FSMA has reduced administrative procedures and allowed companies to register with the FDA, directly and immediately, the compliance of their products without intermediaries and at no cost to them. This means that a person designated by the company, defined in the FSMA under the qualifier Preventive Control Qualified Individual (PCQI), is simply invited to introduce on the dedicated electronic platform of the FDA the products that his company wishes to export to the US market indicating the regulatory characteristics of these products. Once this is done, the company is free to offer the products, which will then have received a registration code, for sale to US importers of their choice on commercial terms that are convenient to the producing company.

In addition, if previously the questions and answers of the FDA (in English), to determine the quality of the products, could somewhat dampen the enthusiasm of certain potential national exporters; the command of English is now widespread. For those who are still behind on this, the FDA has set up the Chapters of Interest for Foreign Exporters in this regard in translated versions in several languages to choose from.

It is clear, however, that the information on access to the American market, those mentioned above and others must be better relayed by ONSSA and Foodex-EACCE, supervisory bodies on the national agrifood sector, to enable our food companies to take advantage. ASMEX is therefore right to recall the archaism of the services of these supervisory bodies in this area.

It is useful to recall that the failure of the supervisory authorities over the agro-industry to provide the desired assistance to operators to better break into new foreign markets is the result of laxity observed also in other fields of activity. There is, for example, this popular joke, correlated in the field, which consists in distinguishing two categories of lawyers. There are lawyers who know the law. And there are lawyers with connections to the judges. They know how to forge more or less incestuous relationships with magistrates in order to influence court decisions outside the law. The result is a biased justice that loses its credibility and ends up tarnishing the entire economic system of the country.

Fortunately in Morocco, our judicial system has begun to fully reclaim its credibility thanks, among other things, to a benchmark magistrate (solver), Mr. Mohamed Abdennabaoui, First President of the Court of Cassation, appointed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI as Deputy President of the Superior Council of the Judicial Power and whose work is widely praised in Morocco.

To come back to our national agrifood sector, among our numerous expert interventions compiled over thirty years, there are observations recorded in our archives which point to the existence of more or less incestuous relations between operators accustomed to doing their own thing on the local market, and wishing to extend these practices to foreign markets, with certain officials of our supervisory authorities. This is, in our opinion, a residue of the colonial legacy that laid down the economic model that ruined Morocco and which the NDM is now seeking to replace for more equity for us Moroccans.

In conclusion, if a solver is appointed to bring some order to this sector which is particularly vital for the Moroccan economy, he will, in our opinion, have to work on weaning operators addicted to checks of convenience. It probably won’t be easy. But this weaning, there is no doubt, will be easier to accomplish compared to the task of try convincing the competent American authorities to modify their FSMA to adjusting their controls to the way of work of national operators addicted to laxity.