WINNIPEG, MANITOBA, CANADA — The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) said on April 27 that it welcomed the announcement of stronger agriculture trade ties between Canada and Morocco, an important buyer of high-quality durum wheat worth approximately C$175 million to Prairie farmers last year.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced on April 26 efforts are proceeding to forge a free trade agreement that will ensure Canadian durum sales to Morocco are not left at a competitive disadvantage. Ritz, who has just completed a successful mission to Morocco, has invited Moroccan officials to Canada in June for the next round of negotiations. He also announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on agriculture cooperation that will foster stronger ties between the two countries by enhancing the exchange of knowledge.

"I congratulate the minister for his ongoing efforts to ensure strong exports markets for Canadian grain and other agricultural products," said CWB President and Chief Executive Officer Ian White. "A free trade agreement is crucial to ensuring that Canada's dominant position in the Moroccan durum market is not eroded."

Durum makes up more than 90% of the value of Canadian agricultural exports to Morocco. CWB exported almost 600,000 tonnes of durum to Morocco in the 2010-11 crop year, making Morocco its second-largest durum customer. Durum wheat is a staple food source in Morocco, where Canadian farmers supply 80% of the country's durum import needs.

However, that dominance may be threatened if other countries retain preferential wheat market access through their own trade deals. The U.S. is in the sixth year of a 10-year implementation period of its own free-trade agreement with Morocco, which provides an increasing tariff advantage for U.S. durum into this crucial market.