Morocco Trade Mission Builds Trust with South Dakota Soybean Farmers and Buyers

February 14, 2023

This January, a delegation of soybean farmers from South Dakota visited key sites in Morocco, including Casablanca and Marrakech. The trade mission was designed to continue growing the relationship between soybean farmers and the kingdom of Morocco.

Situated on the western edge of what political scientists and economists refer to as the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region, Morocco has solidified its status as Africa’s fourth-largest economy.

“This is what we call an emerging market,” says Dawn Scheier, District 3 Director for the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and a member of the delegation to Morocco in January. “As soybean farmers, we want to cultivate these emerging markets and other areas where we can increase soybean usage.”

Scheier, who farms near Salem, is also secretary for the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). She has a keen understanding of the importance of farmers meeting with foreign buyers during trade missions.

“Over 60 percent of U.S. soybeans are exported,” says Scheier. “That is why trade is very important.”

Growth in the Moroccan Livestock Industry

Morocco’s economy has shown steady growth in recent years and has become one of the ten largest importers of soybean meal originating in the U.S.

In fact, according to USDA data, United States soybean and meal exports to Morocco totaled $169 million in 2021.

This is largely attributed to the emergence of a stronger middle class that has shifted food preferences, including an increased demand for meat. Poultry consumption, for example, is projected to grow 5 percent annually according to USSEC.

Demand for sheep, goats and cattle is increasingly strong in Morocco, too. Meanwhile, aquaculture is a growing sector, presenting an additional opportunity on the soybean demand side.

The South Dakota Soybean delegation discussed this growth opportunity extensively during their visit, meeting with leaders of major feed processing plants and observed commerce in traditional Moroccan markets as well as more modernized grocery stores.

Scheier notes that part of the soybean checkoff strategy in Morocco has been to support growth and standardization of the livestock infrastructure there. The group’s itinerary included a stop at a food preparation training facility and discussions about food safety.

A Trust-building Mission

Above all else, checkoff-sponsored trade missions are designed to nurture relationships with prospective buyers.

“By going to these countries — whether that’s to the MENA region, Latin America or Southeast Asia — we are building relationships and trust,” says Scheier.

“In business, you have to have trust,” she adds. “It's really important for us to build and maintain that trust in relationships with our customers.”

When the delegation met with leaders at Morocco’s largest feed processor, EDDIK, the trust U.S. soybean growers had earned in the country was evident.

“They knew the difference — in terms of quality and the consistency of the grind — between U.S. meal and Argentinian meal,” says Scheier. “That is very interesting and encouraging to see from buyers in another country.”

Looking Ahead to New Markets

China, which imported 96.52 million metric tons of soybeans in 2021, obviously continues to loom large as the dominant export market. But it is also clear that many other countries — including Morocco and other countries in the MENA region, such as Egypt — are emerging as growing markets for U.S. soybeans.

With this in mind, South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council remains focused on building relationships with these key players around the world.

Now that COVID-19 concerns have subsided some and international travel is on the rise, trade tours are at the forefront of these relationship-building efforts.

“We want to make sure we have good, diverse markets for the U.S. farmer,” says Scheier. “It’s a long-term investment.”