Grants Empower USGC Education Of Tunisian Dairy Professionals

Thirteen Tunisians braved the start of North Dakota winter in November to learn how to improve their dairy feed manufacturing – all part of the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) work to grow and capture feed demand in the Middle East and Africa through a pair of grants from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Understanding the needs of a market is critical to secure long-term market opportunities for U.S. coarse grains,” said Ramy Taieb, USGC regional director for the Middle East and Africa. “Through these grants, the Council is striving to ensure programs are effectively meeting the needs of the Tunisian feed industry.”

The week-long program, organized in collaboration with the Northern Crops Institute (NCI), specifically focused on dairy production. The Tunisian dairy sector has tremendous potential, representing 25 percent of the country’s livestock production. Sector growth, however, has remained relatively stagnant for multiple reasons, including high feed costs. Dairy feed can amount for as much as 70 percent of the cost of production, largely due to the devaluation of the local currency and an inconsistent and limited supply of feed ingredients.

Enter the Council’s market development work. While in the United States, the team engaged in technical seminars at NCI and South Dakota State University (SDSU) in addition to field visits to local dairy operations. But this training was not the delegation’s first feed manufacturing course. These specific participants had previously attended a two-week intensive feed manufacturing training program at NCI and Iowa State University (ISU) in July 2018, covering feed processing, grain storage and pest control, among other topics.

Both courses were extensions of the Council’s market development work in Tunisia, powered by a State Department grant in September 2017 to work with the Tunisian feed industry to improve the quality of the country’s locally-produced feed.

“This grant marked a shift in the Council’s strategic approach in Tunisia – a strategy more utilizing comprehensive training programs to help to develop and expand the Tunisian feed industry,” Taieb said. “Training programs, like those in Tunisia funded by the State Department and USDA, work to bolster feed grain demand, simultaneously creating additional demand for U.S. corn, barley, sorghum and co-products in these markets.”

The grant helped establish a feed training center in Tunis, Tunisia. The Center – housed at the National Institute of Agronomy of Tunisia (INAT) – provides training for feed production and animal nutrition. The training program combines in-classroom technical trainings with practical hands-on training at an on-site feed mill, which includes state-of-the-art feed manufacturing equipment.

Before attending these courses, participants must complete a five-week online comprehensive feed manufacturing and animal nutrition program, created by INAT and ISU with assistance from the Council. To date, more than 150 Tunisian feed industry professionals – from the poultry sector to aquaculture – have completed training at the Tunisian Feed Manufacturing Center. The 13 dairy professionals who traveled to North Dakota are also graduates, which enabled them to increase their own knowledge of feed manufacturing and equipped them with the teaching skills they need to train peers at the Tunisian Feed Manufacturing Center once back in Tunisia – another requirement of this program.

The Council recently signed a no-cost extension to the grant, allowing another 100 Tunisian feed professionals to graduate from the Tunisian Feed Manufacturing Center by March 2020.

Concurrently, the Council is preparing to conduct its first training program at the Tunisian Feed Manufacturing Center under a USDA Section 108 Grant – three-year funding that will allow the center to expand to a regional hub for feed manufacturing training in North Africa, Middle East and Africa. The first team of 20 participants – representatives from the Algerian feed industry – will participate in the training program this month.

Learn more about the Council’s work in Tunisia.Learn more about the Council’s work in Tunisia.Learn more about the Council’s work in Tunisia.