Using Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program funds, USDA Foreign Market Development (FAS) cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) keeps Brazilian millers informed about the quality, variety and value of U.S. wheat every year — even though Brazil regularly imports most of its wheat from Argentina. This knowledge resulted in Brazilian millers buying most of their wheat from the United States between March 2013 and May 2014 when Argentina could not meet their demand.
With high demand, Brazil imports more wheat than most other countries because its farmers cannot produce sufficient domestic supplies. Under the Mercosur trade agreement, Brazil’s millers can import wheat from Argentina without having to pay the tariff of 10 percent or a substantial “Merchant Marine Renovation” tax levied on wheat imported from non-Mercosur countries like the United States.
The Argentine government tightly controls the local wheat supply and, after two poor crops, it decided in December 2012 to cut the amount of wheat it would allow to be exported. Using information from USW in regular trade service calls and at their annual association meeting, Brazil’s millers responded by asking their own government to suspend the 10 percent tariff on non-Mercosur wheat imports, a request that was granted in April 2013.
USW representatives in the South American regional office in Santiago, Chile, quickly marshalled MAP funds to organize a trip for executives from the largest Brazilian milling company to visit the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, the International Grains Program, the USDA Center for Grain and Animal Health Research and a local wheat farm. By October 2013, a large mill represented on the trip to the United States had purchased more than 37 million bushels of U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat
In São Paolo, USW held seminars to show Brazilian wheat purchasing managers how to manage price risk and specify for the best value in U.S. HRW and soft red winter (SRW) wheat. In a separate seminar, milling managers gained technical information to help adjust their systems to get the most yield and highest quality flour from U.S. wheat.
In April and May 2013, Brazil imported 13.4 million bushels of HRW and SRW, or about the same amount of U.S. wheat Brazil usually imports for an entire year. The orders kept coming even after the government re-established the import tariff in November 2013. By the end of May 2014, U.S. commercial sales (delivered or booked) totaled more than 151 million bushels of HRW, which represents about one-third of total U.S. HRW sales for the entire 2013/14 marketing year, and more than 7.2 million bushels of SRW.
That represents a substantial return in revenue to the U.S. wheat industry and farmers.