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Japanese Milling Executives Visit U.S. for Wheat Industry Tour
April 30, 2013
ARLINGTON, Virginia — Japan was one of the first, and is still one of the largest, overseas markets cultivated by U.S. wheat growers. As part of long-term marketing development activities, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is bringing a team of Japanese milling executives to North Dakota and Washington, DC, May 1 to 7, 2013, for a firsthand look at this year’s crop.

In addition to examining current crop conditions and quality, team members will discuss market and trade policy developments with U.S. agricultural organizations.

“These team visits to the United States give milling executives more insight and perspective into U.S. wheat’s consistently high quality, reliability and value,” said USW Japan County Director Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya, who will accompany the team. “They also reinforce the strong relationship built between Japanese millers and U.S. wheat farmers, starting in the late 1940’s when the Oregon Wheat Growers League organized the first trade delegation to Japan.”

Following that first visit, U.S. wheat farmers nurtured that connection through a variety of marketing and educational activities to promote U.S. wheat, including a school lunch program and a “Kitchen on Wheels” that traveled through rural Japan from 1956 to 1960.

Today, Japan consistently imports more U.S. wheat than any other country, averaging more than 118 million bushels per year the past five years. Japan typically accounts for roughly 10 percent of all U.S. wheat exports, importing significant amounts of hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and soft white (SW) wheat.

USW worked with the North Dakota Wheat Commission to organize this year’s team in addition to collaborating with the North American Millers Association, the North American Export Grain Association and other industry organizations.

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.

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2013 Japanese Milling Executives Team - Team Members

Mr. Kazuhiko Niitsuma
Managing Director, Showa Sangyo Co.

Mr. Tsunetaka Honda
President and Senior Managing Director, Nippon Flour Mills

Mr. Naoji Uike
Chairman, Riken Nosan Kako Company

Mr. Motohiro Seko
President, Seko Milling Co. Ltd

Mr. Masaaki Kadota,
Senior Managing Director, Flour Millers Association

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 U.S. Wheat Associates (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.

U.S. Wheat Sales to Japan

One metric ton = 36.74 bushels

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