North African grain buyers note quality in Mid-Atlantic area while on U.S. tour

Staff Writer

CORDOVA, Md. – Mustapha El Youssoufi said he remembers a time 20 years ago or so when the United States enjoyed a 90-percent market share of corn imports in and around Morocco.
Slowly, the corn’s quality began to slip, said the Moroccan consultant for the U.S. Grains Council. The corn, imported mostly from the Midwest, seemed over-handled, dusty and harder to process. Other sources from South America and Eastern Europe moved in.
Now, he said, the U.S. market share there rests at about 25 percent. It was a fact on his mind Oct. 17 as he and several other foreign consultants with the U.S. Grain Council led a group of buyers from North Africa across the Delmarva region and the country to show them U.S. corn supplies and build new contacts with U.S. suppliers of feed grains and co-products.
“Virginia and this part of the U.S. offers… better quality,” Youssoufi said inside the front office of Nagel Farm Service as he and 13 other North Africans listened to Chad Nagel describe the family company’s services.
Youssoufi had mentioned much of the problematic, over-handled corn his region sees is received from states around the Gulf of Mexico.
“I think you’re looking in the right area,” Nagel said. “We are a corn deficit area.”
The trip was part of the council’s Export Exchange program, which began Wednesday, Oct. 15 in Washington, D.C., and ended last Thursday in Seattle for a conference before the group departed for home, according to a program itinerary.
“We want to learn from you and what your expectations are,” said Chip Councell, the council’s secretary and treasurer and a Maryland farmer.
Councell and other American farmers from the region proudly discussed this summer’s record corn harvest. Councell said he harvested 224 bushels per acre.
“My son may see yields like this again, but I probably never will,” he said.
But corn prices have also dropped dramatically, and it’s a “buyer’s market,” he said.
Oussama Belouafi is one of those buyers. He is a purchasing manager with Alf Sahel in Casablanca, Morocco, an animal feed company and the only importer of U.S. grains in the country, he said. More than 2 percent of a recent shipment of American corn was broken kernels, Belouafi said.
“It’s too rigid, too hard,” he said, making it more difficult to process, which slows production.
Belouafi said part of the purpose of his trip here was to investigate other sources of corn.
“I will try another region,” he said. “Like Virginia or (farther north.)”