Japanese Team to Examine U.S. Wheat Crop from Farm to Port
August 22, 2013
ARLINGTON, Virginia — Japanese flour millers – and their customers – want to know more about the system that produces, transports, inspects and ships the wheat used in their products. And, because Japan typically accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. wheat imports, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its state wheat commission members are happy to satisfy that request.
From August 25 to 31, USW is bringing a team of mid-level flour milling managers to Oregon, Washington and North Dakota to gain a better understanding of U.S. wheat breeding, production, handling and marketing systems. The four team members, all of whom are involved in flour production and quality control for their respective companies, will also gain firsthand knowledge of this year’s soft white (SW), hard red spring (HRS) and durum wheat crops.
“These team visits reinforce the strong relationship between Japanese millers and U.S. wheat farmers,” said USW Japan County Director Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya, who will accompany the team. “It is important to help mid-level managers, who will eventually have full responsibility for production and evaluating inputs, gain insight and perspective into U.S. wheat’s consistently high quality, reliability and value.”
USW worked with the Oregon Wheat Commission, Washington Grain Commission and North Dakota Wheat Commission to organize this year’s team in addition to collaborating with other industry organizations.
This team was planned far in advance of the discovery of volunteer wheat plants with an unapproved genetically modified (GM) trait in a single field in Oregon and Japan’s government suspension of new tenders for Western White, a sub-class of soft white wheat. Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which purchases imported wheat, resumed tenders for Western White wheat in late July, thanks in part to USW, the U.S. commercial grain trade, state wheat organizations and wheat farmers helping identify and share the most accurate information from the ongoing APHIS investigation to buyers, government agencies and end users.
USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by FAS. USW maintains 17 offices strategically located around the world to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six classes of U.S. wheat.
# # #
Nondiscrimination and Alternate Means of Communications
U.S. Wheat Associates prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, marital or family status, age, disability, political beliefs or sexual orientation. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact U.S. Wheat Associates at 202-463-0999 (TDD/TTY - 800-877-8339, or from outside the U.S.- 605-331-4923). To file a complaint of discrimination, write to Vice President of Finance, U.S. Wheat Associates, 3103 10th Street, North, Arlington, VA 22201, or call 202-463-0999. U.S. Wheat Associates is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
2013 Japanese Management Team - Team Members
Mr. Kazuhiro Imagawa
Quality Control and Assurance Group, Production Division, Nisshin Flour Milling Inc.
Mr. Tomohiko Endo
Silo Group, Tokyo Factory, Nitto Fuji Flour Milling Co.
Mr. Yukimasa Takayama
Production Department, Riken Nosan Kako Co.
Mr. Tomoyuki Sogabe
Quality Control Room, Central Flour Milling Co.
Mr. Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya
Country Director, Japan, U.S. Wheat Associates
U.S.-Japan Partnership in Wheat
The indelible link between the Japanese people and U.S. wheat producers began when the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) organized a trade delegation to investigate opportunities for expanding U.S. wheat sales to Japan in 1949. A variety of marketing and education activities followed and perhaps the most famous were a school lunch program and “Kitchens on Wheels” traveling through rural Japan to promote wheat foods to Japanese consumers from 1956 to 1960.
Japan produces about 850,000 metric tons of wheat per year but relies on imports of about 5.0 million metric tons per year to meet total wheat food demand. Japan’s milling and baking industries are highly advanced, sophisticated, and fully automated. A modern baking plant produces 600 to 700 different items daily utilizing more than 30 blends of flour of various classes, meeting strict quality and food safety restrictions. For these reasons, Japanese millers demand very high standards of cleanliness and uniformity — and U.S. wheat producers consistently meet those standards.
In fact, over the decades, Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any country in the world and has imported more than 118 million bushels per year on average the past five years, representing about 60 percent of its total annual wheat imports. Japan currently relies on a wheat purchasing system managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). MAFF, Japanese grain traders, millers and bakers rely on USW and state wheat commissions for the information they need. USW and its state members focus activities on helping buyers with detailed quality information, keeping both Japanese government and millers informed on market and policy developments, advising government officials on their policy change proposals, and collaborating in detail on any food safety related concerns.
MAFF announced July 30, 2013, that it was resuming tenders for new purchases of U.S. Western White, a sub-class of soft white (SW) wheat. The ministry had suspended new purchases of Western White following the announcement in late May by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that volunteer wheat plants with an unapproved genetically modified (GM) trait had been discovered in a single field in Oregon. From the start, USW, the U.S. commercial grain trade, state wheat organizations and wheat farmers took this unusual situation very seriously. Their work helped identify and share the most accurate information from the ongoing APHIS investigation to buyers, government agencies and end users. In the end, the reasoned response to the incident and investigation by farmers, the U.S. wheat industry, USDA and all wheat buyers helped minimize disruptions in the market.
U.S. Wheat Sales to Japan
(June - May)
Data current through August 1, 2013
One metric ton = 36.74 bushels