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Wheat Breeders Traveling to Asia to Listen and Share with Milling and Baking Customers
April 09, 2015
ARLINGTON, Virginia Each year the United States exports, on average, 25 to 35 million metric tons (MMT) of wheat, which accounts for roughly 50 percent of the annual crop. This makes the voice of overseas customers important to wheat research. To demonstrate that importance, four wheat breeders will travel with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to Asia, April 18 to 26, 2015, on a Wheat Quality Improvement Team (WQIT).

The team will visit with buyers and end-users in Japan, Korea and Thailand to listen and exchange ideas. Their primary goal will be to gather input on wheat quality from key customers to inform their own research and to share what they learn with other U.S. wheat breeders upon their return. They will also share the successful efforts of the U.S. wheat industry to improve the quality of newly released varieties.

“It is vital that we actively listen to and respect the needs of our overseas customers,” said USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching, who will lead the team. “The impact breeders have on the industry and the livelihood of farmers is huge. Ultimately, if a variety offers higher yield potential but does not have strong milling or baking qualities that domestic and overseas customers need, farmers will feel that impact.”

This is the fourth WQIT led by USW. In 2004, a similar trip was made to Asia, followed by Latin America in 2009, and Europe and North Africa in 2010. State commissions in Oregon, Washington, North Dakota and Minnesota identified and sponsored top wheat breeders from their land grant universities to join this team.

Dr. Arron H. Carter leads the winter wheat breeding and genetics program at Washington State University where his research focuses on breeding improved wheat varieties for cropping systems in Washington state that incorporate diverse rotations and environments.

Dr. Michael Flowers is an assistant professor and extension cereals specialist at Oregon State University where his research areas include variety trials, nitrogen management in hard wheat and management practices for new Oregon winter wheat varieties.

Dr. Mohamed Mergoum represents North Dakota State University as the Richard C. Frohberg Spring Wheat Breeding/Genetics Endowed Professor. His program’s main objectives are to develop modern and improved cultivars adapted to the spring wheat region and generate wheat germplasm with valuable economic traits required in cultivar development.

Dr. James Anderson is a professor in wheat breeding and genetics at the University of Minnesota where the program he leads researches genetic investigations of complexly inherited traits, including disease resistance and grain quality, and incorporating disease and pest resistance into new cultivars using marker-assisted selection.

The WQIT is a part of a larger USW effort to address the quality of exported wheat and the needs of importing countries. It is a logical next step to a 17-year-old program called the “Overseas Variety Analysis” or OVA program. Through OVA, USW cooperates with millers and bakers to compare the performance of flour from newly or soon-to-be released U.S. wheat varieties to the local country’s standards. Results — both good and not-so-good — are shared with breeders and with state wheat commissions who develop recommended variety lists for wheat farmers. USW currently works with 22 OVA cooperators around the world. During the upcoming trip, the team will participate in an OVA workshop at the UFM Baking School in Bangkok, Thailand, to hear directly from several Asian cooperators. To learn more about the success of OVA programming visit http://bit.ly/1MynGmr.

USW will post photos and other information from the 2015 WQIT on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/uswheat.

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 USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. 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.
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The U.S. Wheat Industry Relationship with Japan

In 1949, the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) organized a trade delegation to investigate ways to expand U.S. wheat sales to Japan. That trip ultimately resulted in a variety of marketing and education activities, including a “Kitchens on Wheels” school lunch program that promoted wheat foods to Japanese consumers in rural areas.

Today, those efforts continue to pay off with a 65 percent market share for U.S. wheat in a well-established and quality conscious market. Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country over the years, including more than 3.50 million metric tons (MMT) on average the last five years. Japan issues consistent, large, bi-weekly tenders for U.S. hard red spring (HRS), hard red winter (HRW) and western white, which is a blend of soft white (SW) and up to 20 percent of club wheat, a SW sub-class.

Japan’s milling and baking industries are highly advanced. A modern baking plant produces 600 to 700 different items daily from more than 30 blends of flour of various classes, meeting strict quality and food safety restrictions. As a result, Japanese millers demand very high standards of cleanliness and uniformity — and U.S. wheat producers consistently meet those standards.

USW’s efforts in Japan focus on providing up-to-date market information and collaborating with Japanese industry groups. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) carries out all wheat purchases in Japan and then sells the wheat to Japanese flour mills. The Japanese grain trade acts as intermediaries between MAFF and overseas sellers, and OMIC, Ltd., in Portland, OR, provides testing and inspection services.

Japanese customers value consistency and reliability. Their keen concerns include food safety issues such as farm chemicals, allergens and GM crops. Flour millers want to increase their knowledge about the quality and supply chain of U.S. wheat.

Historical OVA program results show that new wheat varieties typically rank higher than older ones, demonstrating that U.S. wheat quality is continuously improving. As an OVA participant, Japan is a part of a collaborative effort of wheat breeders, wheat commissions, government research agencies, domestic partners, and overseas millers and bakers that add more value to U.S. wheat varieties each year. Meeting with the Wheat Quality Improvement Team will foster continued collaboration.

The trust between USW and the Japanese industry allows for open dialogue between the two countries, to foster a mutually beneficial, long-term trading relationship.


The U.S. Wheat Sales to Japan
1,000 Metric Tons
Crop Year
(June - May)
HRW
SRW
HRS
White
Durum
Total
2014/15
787.7
25.0
1,213.5
936.4
1.1
2,963.7
2013/14
1,005.2
51.2
1,167.1
854.4
1.4
3,079.3
2012/13
1,003.4
257.3
1,330.7
1057.1
0.7
3,649.3
2011/12
1,074.4
0.0
1,562.1
1207.6
0.7
3,844.7
2010/11
908.7
0.0
1,748.5
935.2
6.3
3,598.7
2009/10
963.2
1.5
1,518.3
879.8
0.4
3,363.1
2008/09
817.1
28.7
1,615.4
830.0
0.3
3,291.4
2007/08
1,079.3
18.7
1,568.2
798.9
0.0
3,465.1
2006/07
937.0
3.6
1,768.1
722.9
0.5
3,432.1
2005/06
853.6
0.0
1,552.5
654.7
0.0
3,060.9
Data current through April 2, 2015

One metric ton = 36.74 bushels

The U.S. Wheat Industry Relationship with Korea

In the late 1960s, Western Wheat Associates — one of USW’s legacy organizations — sponsored the first trade team visit to the United States by South Korean flour millers. Since then, South Korea’s wheat flour and food industry has grown more sophisticated and U.S. farmers and the U.S. grain chain have consistently delivered the high quality wheat they demand.

“USW has cultivated an excellent working relationship with the Korean Flour Millers Importers Association (KOFMIA) and the country’s baking industry,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “Through our work providing detailed information about every class of U.S. wheat every year and through direct support of the Korean Baking School, our customers recognize the value of our wheat, especially for bread and pastry products, even though we are not the least-cost supply.”

South Korea is consistently a top ten customer of U.S. wheat — which has a 47 percent market share — buying HRS, HRW and SW. Much like Japan, South Korean customers value consistency and reliability. The reputation of U.S. wheat has driven record sales over the last few years, which stems from USW’s effort to offer better service after the sale and provide technical service. South Korea’s participation in the OVA program has strengthened that relationship and USW is looking forward to helping bring local industry representatives together with U.S. wheat breeders on the current Wheat Quality Improvement Team.

USW Country Director Chang-Yoon Kang said end-product flour specifications in Korea are becoming more complicated because consumers demand quality and an increasingly wide range of products. Millers are buying different specifications within a single class of wheat, instead of blending different classes, to maintain uniform product quality and reduce production costs. For example, millers can specify for U.S. origin dark northern spring wheat or northern spring, each at various protein levels, from U.S. exporters. USW — with funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service programs and support from state wheat commissions — gives the millers the information they need to best write their tenders.

The South Korean consumers are also relating food more and more to long-term health. USW is adapting marketing strategies to match these trends. For example, USW has actively participated in an increasing interest in whole wheat foods by arranging in-country whole wheat bread seminars as well as sponsoring whole wheat noodle courses at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, OR. These efforts directly help to promote HRS, HRW and SW.

The U.S. Wheat Sales to Korea

1,000 Metric Tons
Crop Year
(June - May)
HRW
SRW
HRS
White
Durum
Total
2014/15
232.8
6.9
413.0
555.0
0.0
1,207.7
2013/14
214.3
6.0
361.3
730.9
0.0
1,312.5
2012/13
279.4
4.9
385.6
715.9
0.0
1,385.8
2011/12
247.9
28.0
332.9
1480.9
0.0
2,089.7
2010/11
325.5
63.5
460.1
843.9
0.0
1,692.9
2009/10
260.4
12.4
316.9
619.5
0.0
1,209.3
2008/09
259.4
5.9
342.3
538.8
0.0
1,146.5
2007/08
404.3
7.4
421.5
774.8
0.0
1,608.0
2006/07
223.8
6.0
364.5
598.1
0.0
1,192.4
2005/06
238.7
6.0
380.4
565.4
0.0
1,190.5
Data current through April 2, 2015
One metric ton = 36.74 bushels

The U.S. Wheat Industry Relationship with Thailand

Urbanization and changing consumer preferences are opening up new food products in Thailand, and that change is being reflected in the wheat market. The amount of U.S. wheat shipping to Thailand increased every year since marketing year (June to May) 2008/09 and set a new record for the third consecutive year in MY 2013/14 at 663,000 MT. By class, U.S. wheat exports consisted of 306,000 MT of HRS and 228,000 MT of SW (both records), and 129,000 MT of HRW. This is part of a general rise in demand for all classes of U.S. wheat throughout the south Asian region.

Most consumption of wheat in Thailand takes place in urban areas such as Bangkok. Baked goods, particularly packaged industrial baked goods, have become a dynamic product, offering convenience, variety and lower prices. Although the popularity of whole grains has grown, white bread at 43 percent continues to hold the largest share of packaged industrial bread markets. As in other South Asian markets, instant noodles remain popular.

In the evolving Thai market, competition among larger bakeries and millers is based on product development, technology assistance and servicing, stemming from a growing demand for more convenient, single-servings and longer shelf-life foods such as noodles, biscuits and crackers. This has created further need in all segments of the industry for technical support as a means to expand their competitive advantage and help strengthen their milling, baking and wheat food industries.

USW’s OVA program plays a strong part in the organization’s service to Thai customers. The USW/Singapore regional office brings OVA cooperators together to conduct baking tests at the UFM Baking and Cooking School in Bangkok, Thailand. These baking tests include flour samples from U.S. SW, soft red winter (SRW), HRW and HRS crops compared with the performance of local standards. Each cooperator sets its own criteria and writes evaluations individually.

“The objective remains the same,” USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung said. “How do we do a better job conducting this series of baking tests to produce results that are useful for breeders like those on the 2015 team that will directly participate in the testing to consider when releasing new varieties? The job isn’t complete until the wheat is evaluated for end-use quality.”

The U.S. Wheat Sales to Thailand

1,000 Metric Tons
Crop Year
(June - May)
HRW
SRW
HRS
White
Durum
Total
2014/15
157.0
60.0
273.6
170.8
0.0
661.3
2013/14
129.4
0.0
305.9
227.7
0.0
663.0
2012/13
102.9
0.0
297.6
163.9
0.0
564.4
2011/12
138.1
0.0
237.9
181.6
0.0
557.6
2010/11
126.8
0.2
246.0
157.4
0.0
530.4
2009/10
121.5
0.5
225.7
160.2
0.0
508.0
2008/09
81.7
0.0
209.8
154.5
0.0
446.0
2007/08
85.0
0.0
218.2
112.8
0.0
416.0
2006/07
81.7
0.0
232.1
188.3
0.0
502.1
2005/06
85.8
0.0
256.6
201.6
0.0
544.0
Data current through April 2, 2015

One metric ton = 36.74 bushels

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