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A Latin American and Caribbean Buyers Conference June 21 to 24, 2016, in Portland, OR, sponsored by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) with Market Access Program (MAP) funding and support from 9 state wheat commissions, set the stage for incremental wheat exports by 75 flour millers and buyers from 16 countries.

The increasingly competitive global wheat market puts a premium on in-person trade service and technical support to differentiate wheat supplies. The 2016 Buyers Conference created a collegial opportunity for wheat buyers to meet with farmers, U.S. based grain traders and technical experts on local supply chain visits, in seminar sessions and social activities. USW arranged for speakers on a range of relevant topics including U.S. wheat quality trends, logistics management, plant breeding methods and other key wheat price drivers that address specific constraints on U.S. wheat sales to these growing markets.

By increasing the basic knowledge of how to purchase U.S. wheat, for example, a flour miller in Haiti bought their first two shipments ever of U.S. hard red winter (HRW) after the conference, with plans to import more HRW. The miller noted that meeting with traders and millers at the conference opened talks about possible joint purchases. Two participants from a new flour mill in Honduras said they now have better information to consider additional U.S. wheat purchases from Pacific Northwest ports. An experienced Colombian buyer said seeing the whole process from varietal development to the farm and supply system was “amazing” and definitely increased his confidence in U.S. wheat quality and reliability.

To help overcome regional preferences for Canadian wheat, master baker Didier Rosada presented (in Spanish) evidence that blending two or more U.S. wheat classes can be less expensive and improve end-product quality. With this information and discussions at the conference, a large Costa Rican miller and food processor indicated it would likely increase U.S. soft white (SW) wheat imports for blending.

While it is not possible to quantify all additional U.S. wheat exports directly related to the 2016 conference, 2016/17 sales to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean of 6.3 million metric tons (MMT) are up 23 percent over 2015/16. Sales of 3.5 MMT of U.S. wheat to South American markets represent a 70 percent increase in 2016/17 over the prior year.

Overall, the effort to identify how world market dynamics made U.S. wheat an attractive choice was a timely message for Latin American buyers. To help meet the growing demand for new and better wheat food products in the region they increasingly buy based on the kind of quality characteristics U.S. wheat classes offer. A survey of buyers at the 2016 conference showed that 64 percent believed the experience will help them compare U.S. wheat quality, while 70 percent said it would help them compare U.S wheat value, to competing origins. These are key objectives for USW in its trade service and technical support activities funded by the MAP and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program.
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