Good customer service is the foundation of any successful business or industry, and for the U.S. wheat industry that means building trust, good communication and consistency in order to forge strong partnerships with overseas customers. That also means providing customers with timely, reliable crop information and demonstrating a commitment to improvement.
USW welcomed a trade team of four Chilean executives from major wheat purchasing and flour producing companies June 18 to 24. USW collaborated with the Oklahoma Wheat Commission (OWC), California Wheat Commission (CWC), Washington Grain Commission (WGC) and the Idaho Wheat Commission (IWC) to organize and host this trade team. Funding also came from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).
“Chile is a sophisticated wheat food market where bakers demand specific flour quality for a wide variety of products – led by bread consumption,” said USW Marketing Manager Casey Chumrau from the USW Santiago Office. “Over the past five years, the United States was the top supplier of wheat to Chile three times, with an average of 383,000 metric tons.”
Chumrau, who led the trade team, said that when the buyers learned that the 2017 hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop will be low in protein, they were open to discuss potential adjustments to their purchases to help meet their functional needs.
The team began its trip in Oklahoma, where it immediately took a broad look at the complete supply chain with visits to grain and seed companies, a train loading facility and marketers. The team also visited the OWC Baking Laboratory, which provided an opportunity to discuss the characteristics that Chilean millers and bakers need for their competitive market.
Next, the team traveled to California, where they had the unique opportunity to meet with Nicolas Cobo Lewin, a Chilean PhD candidate at the University of California-Davis, who specializes in wheat breeding.
“Breeding was one of the main topics of interest for this team and Mr. Cobo was able to explain the process and importance of breeding in a very understandable manner,” said Chumrau.
While in California, the team also visited the Port of Stockton, a Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) grading facility and the CWC Lab.
“California wheat farmers value building strong relationships with our customers, and this was a crucial and very important opportunity for us to build those relationships with millers and wheat buyers from Chile,” said CWC Executive Director Claudia Carter.
Next, the team traveled to Washington and Idaho where the two state wheat commissions worked together to focus on the team’s interests. Chile is the largest buyer of soft white (SW) in South America, and earlier this year the WGC organized a team of wheat farmers to travel to Chile to meet with buyers.
“Having this Chilean team come to the Pacific Northwest strengthens our relationship with an important customer and allows those millers who do not yet purchase soft white wheat to gain a better understanding of what it has to offer their operations,” said Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires.
Additional visits in Washington and Idaho included HighLine Grain, LLC, a 110-car rail facility; the Lewis-Clark Terminal barge loading facility; and a farm visit. During their visit to the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Wheat Quality Lab, the team met with Dr. Kim Campbell to learn more about club wheat and its potential end product applications.
One participant shared that he thought it was important to see and experience the link between wheat breeding, farm production and grain handling that results in the wheat used in the organization’s mills.
“This trip featured almost every point of the supply chain,” said Chumrau. “The team repeatedly emphasized the importance of quality and was impressed with the extensive work being done in Oklahoma, California and the Pacific Northwest to produce new varieties with the buyer in mind.”
USW’s mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities in more than 100 countries are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 18 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit our website at www.uswheat.org.
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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.