Japanese Milling Executives to Visit West Coast Wheat Industry
June 19, 2014
ARLINGTON, Virginia — Senior executives representing six Japanese flour milling companies will visit Washington, Oregon and California June 22 to 28, 2014, to meet with all sectors of the regional grain trade from wheat breeders to farmers to exporters. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is sponsoring the team with assistance from the Washington Grain Commission, Oregon Wheat Commission and California Wheat Commission.
“While these executives manage mid-range to relatively small capacity flour mills, they have important influence with Japan’s government grain buying agency,” said Steve Wirsching, vice president and director of USW’s West Coast Office in Portland, OR. “USW keeps all of our Japanese customers fully informed about U.S. wheat supply and prices, but visits like this give milling executives the chance to discuss other important factors like our logistical and quality assurance systems face-to-face with U.S. wheat farmers, breeders and exporters.”
In addition to walking through wheat fields, the team will discuss new wheat breeding research at Washington State University and the USDA/ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory in Pullman, WA. They will tour container and bulk grain export terminal elevators. A visit to Woodland, CA, includes the California Wheat Commission Milling and Baking Laboratory. And in Portland, the milling executives will get a taste of wheat food innovation at the Wheat Marketing Center and see the how the U.S. government independently certifies that grain meets importer specifications.
U.S. wheat farmers have maintained a close connection with Japan since 1949, when the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) organized a trade delegation to Japan. That visit resulted in a variety of marketing and educational activities, including a school lunch program and a “Kitchen on Wheels” that travelled through rural Japan from 1956 to 1960. Since that time, Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country, importing more than 133 million bushels per year on average for the last five years.
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.” The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.
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2014 Japanese Senior Executive Milling Team – Team Members
Mr. Kozo Abe
President, Abe Flour Milling Company
Mr. Tateo Abiko
President, Ebetsu Flour Milling Company
Mr. Eiichiro Karakida
Chairman, Karakida Flour Milling Company
Mr. Jusuke Shiga
President, Kintobi Shiga Company
Mr. Sadamu Nishida
President, Asahi Flour Milling Company
Mr. Zenichi Oda
Chairman, Odazo Flour Milling Company
Mr. Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya
Country Director, Japan, U.S. Wheat Associates
United States-Japan Partnership in Wheat
“The Japanese domestic milling and baking industries are highly advanced and fully automated, and demand consistent, good quality U.S. wheat. It is crucial to provide appropriate information on U.S. wheat to the Japanese wheat industry because they must address concerns from an increasingly sensitive consumer base on issues such as pesticides, allergens and biotech products. USW will continue with trade servicing for Japanese customers to help them gain a deeper understanding of the true value of the U.S. wheat system from farm to table.”
— U.S. Wheat Associates 2014/15 Unified Export Strategy
In 1949, the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) organized a trade delegation to investigate opportunities for expanding U.S. wheat sales to Japan. That trip 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 well-established market for U.S. wheat. Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country, including more than 3.5 million metric tons (MMT) on average the last five years. Japan issues consistent, large, bi-monthly tenders for U.S. western white, a sub-class of soft white (SW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat classes.
Sophisticated Japanese flour mills and their customers demand very high standards of cleanliness and uniformity in addition to the variety of wheat classes to make the wide range of flour products for hundreds of different wheat food products — and U.S. wheat producers consistently meet those standards.
USW’s efforts in Japan and through trade team visits to the United States 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 purchase 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.
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.
For example, MAFF had suspended new purchases of Western White following the announcement in late May 2013 by the 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 U.S. fallow field in the Pacific Northwest.
However, Japan resumed new purchases of Western White on July 30, 2013. The resumption of imports of this sub-class by Japan came as the result of thorough, science-based reviews of the ongoing APHIS investigation as well as a sustained effort by the U.S. wheat industry, USDA and others, along with their Japanese counterparts. USDA stated that this was an isolated incident, made it clear that wheat with this specific trait does not pose a food safety concern and reaffirmed that there is no “transgenic wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production in the United States at this time.”
U.S. wheat sales to Japan are running about 20 percent higher in the first month of marketing year 2014/15 (June to May) compared to 2013/14.
U.S. Wheat Sales to Japan
1,000 Metric Tons
*With high corn prices, Japan purchased an unusual amount of soft red winter (SRW) for feed in 2012/13 and early in 2013/14.
(June - May)
Data current through June 12, 2014
One metric ton = 36.74 bushels