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French processor puts raw material quality first at new Morocco plant

France's third-largest canner puts in place detailed strategy prioritizing quality control in challenging conditions.

The decision by Chancerelle, France's third largest fish canner, to open a second processing plant in the Moroccan port of Laâyoune is part of a strategy aimed at having greater control over raw material quality.

The company is investing €4 million ($3.4 million) in Morocco, where it employs some 1,250 people.

Chancerelle, owner of the Connétable brand, wants to ensure that fish transported nine hours north by road to the Belma canning site in Agadir arrives in the best possible condition, even going as far as supplying the ice.

"It's a very complex operation in terms of know-how but also in terms of mastering the weather and the temperature," Chancerelle CEO President Jean-François Hug told IntraFish.

"We are working with boats that we have known for a long time."

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The canner is also investing €6 million ($7 million) in a plant upgrade at its Dournez site in the northern French region of Brittany, a move that will see the addition of 100 mainly temporary jobs to the 750 strong workforce before the end of the year.

Chancerelle is turning its attention to export markets in Africa and French-speaking markets as it looks for ways to offset the effects of a stagnant domestic market.

The company, founded in 1853, ranks third behind Saupiquet and market leader Petit Navire in the race for the leadership of the French canned seafood market.

In recent years fish canners have had to deal with high tuna prices as cuts to Indian Ocean quotas have left trawlers anchored in ports.

Restrictions have also been implemented on sardine and mackerel quotas in European waters, putting pressure on prices.

Canners have also faced sharp prices for olive oil, a main ingredient in their operations.

Unable to contain costs any longer, fish canners have had to raise prices in the last two years to their largest customers -- large supermarket chains -- despite facing strong pressure from them not to do so.

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