thumbnail

In Colombia, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is helping increase demand for flour made from U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat by investing in technical support for commercial bakeries using funding from the Market Access Program (MAP).

Demand for better quality baked goods is growing in Colombia, with increasing disposable consumer income in urban areas like the capital Bogota. To offset traditional preferences for Canadian spring wheat as the main source of flour in Colombia, USW is following a strategy to conduct artisan style bread baking seminars. The processes they are teaching produce better quality bread that appeals to consumers and require flour with more HRW, which helps bakeries reduce input costs compared to flour from higher priced Canadian spring wheat flour.

For example, USW contracted with baking consultant Didier Rosada to conduct a full week of baking and technical consulting in August 2017 at a large commercial bakery chain in Bogota that produces over 117 bread varieties, two pastry product lines and more than 60 à la carte dishes in its restaurants. The company found the demonstrations so appealing, it immediately asked suppliers to provide the HRW flour blend that Rosada used in his seminars. As a direct result of this MAP-funded export market development activity, one of the company’s flour supplier imported a relatively small volume of HRW in November 2017. Immediate sales of that flour convinced the mill to change its artisan bread flour blend from a base of 80 percent Canadian Western Red Spring wheat to 100% HRW in 2017 and it became the regular supplier to the bakery chain.

In marketing years 2014/15 and 2015/16 (June to May), Colombia imported 430,000 metric tons (MT) of HRW. The technical support strategy there has helped increase HRW commercial sales to 977,000 MT in 2016/17 and 2017/18, supporting U.S. wheat farmers from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska. These exports represent total revenue of about $217 million.

thumbnail

Vietnam’s flour millers annually import a total of more than 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) of milling wheat and wheat consumption is projected to grow by 4 percent to 6 percent per year. Rapidly expanding demand there for cookies, crackers and cakes is an ideal target market for low-protein soft white (SW) wheat grown in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

With funding from the Foreign Market Development (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP), U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has demonstrated the advantages of SW flour by introducing solvent retention capacity (SRC) analysis to Vietnam’s millers and manufacturers. Even though Vietnam imposes a 5 percent tariff on imported milling wheat and competing Australian wheat enters duty free, U.S. SW annual imports increased from about 39,000 metric tons (MT) in marketing year 2013/14 (June to May) to almost 93,000 MT in 2015/16.

That import pace continued into early 2016/17, but after discovering minor insect presence in some U.S. wheat and DDGS cargoes, the Vietnamese government on Dec. 1, 2016, required all U.S. shipments be fumigated with the insecticide methyl bromide. This effectively blocked U.S. wheat exports because methyl bromide is banned for most uses here and is impractical for bulk grain treatment.

USW Headquarters and Southeast Asia office staff immediately began working with the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to address this issue. USW provided some of the information APHIS used in an official response to Vietnam, which opened the door to negotiations. APHIS and shippers ultimately established specific insect control requirements that were acceptable to Vietnam’s Plant Protection Department. The restriction ended Aug. 31, 2017, a notably fast resolution to such a significant Sanitary/Phytosanitary trade barrier.

Soft white exports to Vietnam dipped to about 58,000 MT in 2016/17. Yet USW kept providing trade service and technical support visits to Vietnamese flour mills and bakeries. Although millers could not import U.S. wheat for the first three months of 2017/18, SW sales for the year rebounded to more than 93,500 MT, valued at almost $19 million. Total U.S. wheat exports to Vietnam, including hard red spring and hard red winter wheat, in 2017/18 reached almost 186,000 MT.

thumbnail

Because no two crops are alike, the world’s flour millers, bakers and wheat food processors must have some assurance that the wheat they buy will meet their needs. That is why USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its partner organizations collect and analyze samples of all six classes of U.S. wheat, compile results and share that data around the world every year.

Legacy organizations to USW first identified the need to quickly gather and share new crop data in 1960. Since then, wheat farmer checkoff dollars and Market Access Program (MAP) funding have been invested to publish a complete picture of each year’s harvest. This commitment to transparency offers confidence in the data that, together with the trade service and technical support also funded by MAP and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, help differentiate U.S. wheat exportable supplies from competing supplies from Russia, Ukraine, Europe, Canada, Australia and Argentina.

USW works with several wheat quality organizations, including the Federal Grain Inspection Service and the USDA/ARS Hard Winter Wheat Quality Laboratory, to collect, grade and analyze thousands of wheat samples from local elevators and sub-lot samples from export elevators. Sampling begins with early winter wheat harvest and continues until the U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and durum harvests are complete, usually by early October. The data is compiled by class and by production region. By late October, class reports and a complete USW Crop Quality Report are published on USW’s website and the Crop Quality Report is printed as a booklet in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin.

USW then sends teams of farmers, wheat quality experts and representatives out to present that year’s data to its buyers. By mid-December, USW has presented current characteristics on grade factors, protein levels, flour extraction rates, dough stability, baking loaf volume, noodle color and texture and more for all six U.S. wheat classes to hundreds of buyers, millers and processors in more than 25 countries. Buying decisions are made because of this effort; some are acted upon quickly. For example, with information they learned at USW’s 2015 Crop Quality Seminar, millers in Portugal imported 36,500 metric tons of HRS for the first time in 3 years.

U.S. wheat crop quality data forms the basis for our farmers’ ability to compete in the global wheat market. Without funding from MAP and the support of federally-funded inspection and quality analysis labs, this essential service to overseas customers would not be possible. It provides crucial support to annual U.S. wheat export sales averaging more than 26 million metric tons per year.

thumbnail

Bakers around the world consider flour produced from U.S. wheat to be consistently high quality and versatile. That reputation is earned largely because wheat farmers grow excellent crops and invest in export market development through U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). In turn, USW marketing and technical experts work hard to leverage funding from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program to serve the world’s wheat buyers and wheat food processors.

One of those experts is Bakery Consultant Roy Chung who, from a base in Singapore, has represented U.S. wheat for more than 40 years. He has consistently added value to U.S. wheat imports by introducing quality bread processing to the milling and baking industry across South Asia in conjunction with his USW colleagues and training program collaborators.

The association of such expertise and service with U.S. wheat’s reputation overseas is so well regarded that in 2016, Lesaffre, a leading French yeast and fermentation products company, asked Chung and USW to collaborate on an innovative publication called “Sandwich Bread in Words. A Glossary of Sensory Terms” for bakers.

Lasaffre describes the January 2017 book as a tool “to formalize a common vocabulary about sandwich bread, drawing on different cultures and incorporating a repeatable assessment method … to create a bridge to connect experts with consumers.”

Lasaffre’s baking ingredients and flour produced from U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat classes, are ideally suited for the high quality “sponge and dough” system bread products that Chung describes in the book: “The internal characteristics, like flavor, grain, texture, taste, mouthfeel … will determine if the customer returns for another loaf. The vested interest of the baker is to make the best possible looking and tasting product with the best ingredients available.”

It may be difficult to correlate specific export sales changes with the respected knowledge Chung and other USW colleagues demonstrate. Over the long-term, however, it is an ideal example of the power of farmer support and MAP and FMD funding to help create sustained demand for high quality U.S. wheat in more than 100 overseas markets, even when that wheat is higher priced.

Total annual U.S. wheat exports to South Asian countries stood at nearly 3 million metric tons (MMT) in marketing year 2008/09, but has steadily increased since then. In marketing year 2016/17, U.S. wheat exports to the region reached 5.5 MMT.

thumbnail

A Latin American and Caribbean Buyers Conference June 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.

thumbnail

Euromonitor International has predicted that sales of baked goods in the People’s Republic of China will increase 22.5% by 2021. Domestic wheat is less than optimal in flour production and quality for these baked goods, so imports are needed. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is using Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program funds to meet that demand by helping the Chinese baking industry tackle technical challenges to produce world class baked goods using imported U.S. wheat.

USW applied FMD funds to hire Dr. Ting Liu in September 2016 as Technical Specialist to bolster USW’s technical ability to demonstrate U.S. wheat performance qualities for new baked goods. One of Dr. Liu’s first projects, supported by MAP funds, was to help the Sino American Baking School (SABS) in Guangdong Province offer consultation to baking companies that have some experience using flour made from U.S. wheat. The long-term goal is to help them expand new specialty items such as sourdough, frozen dough and whole grain products. In marketing year 2016/17, three Chinese companies requested the technical assistance from senior specialists currently teaching at, or recently retired from, SABS. USW and SABS are strongly associated with excellent instruction and product development, so USW’s support is also helping build stronger reputations for both the school and for U.S. wheat.

Growing demand for baked goods and interest in healthy, whole grain products represents good opportunity to increase Chinese demand specifically for high-protein U.S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat. In May 2017, Dr. Liu represented USW at the 2017 Sino-Foreign Whole Grain Industry Development Experts Forum in Shanghai. Joining 22 experts in food processing, nutrition and health, financial investment, policy and marketing, Dr. Liu actively participated in the forum as one of 10 industry guest speakers. Drawing from USW’s activities in several other countries, Dr. Liu’s presentation focused “International Whole Grain Development,” which provided guidelines and references to the development of whole grains products in China.

China’s U.S. wheat imports can swing up or down with government policy decisions. However, total U.S. import volume doubled in 2016/17 to more than 1.6 million metric tons (MMT) compared to almost 880,000 MT in 2015/16. A closer look shows China’s annual import of HRS wheat grown in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota has steadily increased the past five years from 475,000 MT in 2012/13 to more than 1.1 MMT in 2016/17. That is the second highest volume of HRS imports in the world that year.

thumbnail

To help Colombian wheat buyers find ways to import more U.S. wheat, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates worked closely with USDA and state wheat commissions to organize a visit to observe the quality and logistical advantages of the U.S. wheat supply chain.

Colombia is the largest wheat buyer in the growing South American market. There are several smaller flour mills there that find it difficult and price restrictive to try to purchase U.S. wheat from on their own. USW’s South America regional office saw an opportunity to overcome this constraint by bringing newer members of the purchasing and milling industries together to consider joint purchasing. They organized a trade team of high level executives from five major flour, cookie and pasta companies in Colombia, all traveling for the first time to see the U.S. wheat supply system. In June 2016, the team traveled to North Dakota, Montana and Louisiana to visit country and port elevators, to meet with wheat producers, U.S. pasta and cookie manufacturers and government agencies including the Federal Grain Inspection Service.

This trade service effort, funded by the Market Access Program (MAP), generated several positive results. One of the participants representing Colombia’s largest wheat buyer after observing how the Montana State Grain Laboratory tested feed and grain for the presence of vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol or DON), recommended that the company install the testing equipment at its mill. Now the testing is helping the mill make crucial judgements about the variability in wheat quality. In addition, the participant reports that the visit helped the company get more value from its purchases because its managers now better understand their options in U.S. wheat supply logistics.

Following the trade team visit, four of the companies established a wheat purchasing pool for the first time. Within six months, the pool purchased 220,000 MT of hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW). U.S. wheat purchases by these companies increased 19 percent compared to the same period in 2015. One of the companies that attended the trade mission informed USW that it plans to purchase 13 percent more U.S. wheat in 2016/17 and 2017/18, valued at $3.0 million because of the advantages from pool buying. That miller also said it will change its formula for bread flour by blending more imported U.S. HRW in place of Canadian spring wheat because the ratio of quality to price is greater because it can pool buy U.S. wheat.

In 2016/17, total U.S. wheat exports to Colombia for marketing year 2016/17 exceeded 858,000 metric tons, which is more than 27 percent more than in 2015/16. That represents sales benefitting farmers in the southern and central Plains and the U.S. wheat supply chain in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Northwest.

thumbnail

Just as the 2016 wheat harvest was starting, a farmer in Washington state discovered and reported rogue wheat plants genetically modified to be “Roundup Ready” in a fallow field on his farm. Yet U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) helped avert a potentially devastating market disruption by taking quick steps to work with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and other USDA agencies, overseas wheat buyers and state wheat commissions.

U.S. wheat imports by Japan, Korea and Taiwan represent an annual average of about 20 percent of total U.S. wheat exports, valued at more than $1 billion even with very low prices. Most consumers in those countries oppose food produced from genetically modified crops, so the stakes could hardly be higher.

Once informed of the situation, USW began working on the issue closely with all the stakeholders involved, including its in-country offices and FAS posts, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. grain trade and Monsanto. APHIS took prompt and thorough action to identify the regulated wheat event in the suspect plants and kept our organizations, as well as government officials in several key overseas markets, informed as it worked to find the facts. In turn, USW shared information about the situation with the domestic grain trade and downstream customer organizations, as well as overseas grain trade and buyers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Out of an abundance of caution, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) suspended new purchases of U.S. western white wheat (soft white and 20 percent club wheat) from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) suspended all new U.S. wheat imports until their officials could validate and start using a customized version of a new detection assay provided quickly by Monsanto and APHIS.

Testing ultimately confirmed that U.S. wheat remained safe and reliable, adding confidence that nothing had changed the U.S. wheat supply chain’s ability to deliver wheat that matches every customer’s specifications. Because USW and state wheat commissions also had a bank of trust with customers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and because Monsanto and APHIS acted so quickly and calmly, both countries reopened their markets to all U.S. wheat imports within eight weeks.

Without the goodwill earned over decades from USW trade and technical service and business relationships funded by the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, wheat farmers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and other states would be isolated in their ability to work through such a market disruption. Instead of export losses, total sales to the North Asian countries in marketing year 2016/17 increased 12 percent compared to 2015/16 with a total value of $1.2 billion.

thumbnail

The West African nation of Angola is making good progress in its desire to improve food security for a rapidly growing population, currently estimated at 24.5 million people. The Angolan government believes that building its own food processing capacity is a crucial part of that effort to help reduce the cost of importing food, while creating jobs for the Angolan people and preserving foreign exchange. Angola currently imports an estimated 800,000 MT of processed wheat flour from various origins to produce popular baguettes and Portuguese style bread, but the country was not always dependent on flour imports.

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) introduced hard red winter (HRW) wheat to Angolan milling companies in 1993 through the USDA PL 480 Title 1 monetization program. The industry processed a significant volume of HRW and Angolan bakers very much liked the quality of the HRW flour to make baguettes and Portuguese-style bread. When the Title 1 program ended in 2001, donated supplies of U.S. HRW were no longer available, and the Angolan government turned to subsidizing imported flour.

Recently improved economic prospects and the government’s new focus created an opportunity to begin increasing flour milling capacity. To build on its legacy of success, USW invested funds from the Market Access Program (MAP) for a part-time consultant to provide timely and accurate information about U.S. HRW to Angolan flour millers, bakers, grain traders and government officials.

In 2016, USW met with representatives of an Angolan flour mill that plans to expand its capacity beginning in 2017 and another mill that planned to re-open a mill that had been closed for 10 years. Wiese proposed using the Quality Samples Program (QSP) to demonstrate the value and utility of U.S. HRW to the mills’ staff and customers. Under QSP, USW coordinated the shipping of two separate HRW milling wheat samples from Kansas through an export terminal in Norfolk, Va., to the Angolan flour mills in late January 2017. After milling, analysis of the flour showed the HRW wheat met industry standards and produced good quality baked products, including the flour produced by the re-opened mill. With competitive prices and expanded storage, those mill managers say HRW will be strongly considered for import.

In a separate QSP activity, USW’s local representatives and staff from its West Coast Office in Portland, OR, worked through the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) to purchase and mill HRW wheat and ship the flour to an Angola food processing company to demonstrate its use in pasta production. The U.S. Ambassador to Angola, Helena M. La Lime, and representatives from USW and NAMA celebrated the arrival of this shipment in a ceremony at the processing company on Feb. 28, 2017. Amb. La Lime highlighted the great potential U.S. wheat has in supporting Angola’s milling and food industries and said the United States “supports Angola’s efforts to diversify the economy through industrialization and increased local production of consumer goods.”

U.S. wheat farmers are pleased that their wheat has the potential to help improve economic conditions in Angola. Through trade service, technical support and training funded by wheat farmers and USDA, our organization tries to build lasting relationships with our valued customers around the world. And, assuming prices remain competitive in the changing world wheat trade, we hope that our support will lead to increased demand for HRW to produce great bread, pasta and other wheat food products for the Angolan people.

thumbnail

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) represents the interests of U.S. wheat farmers in international markets. As it does with all U.S. wheat importing customers, USW focuses on helping Mexico’s buyers, millers and food processors solve problems or increase their business opportunities with U.S. wheat classes. This effort, supported by wheat farmers and the partnership with the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program, has fostered a productive relationship that has endured for decades through many challenges. More than 22 years of duty free access to the Mexican market under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) certainly helped build the relationship.

Mexico is one of the largest U.S. wheat buyers in the world, importing just under 3.0 million metric tons (MMT) on average going back many years.  Not in marketing year 2016/17, however. As of May 18, 2017, Mexico’s flour millers had imported more than 3.3 MMT of U.S. wheat, which is more than any other country. That volume is up 39 percent over last year at the same time.

Breaking down their purchases by class, flour millers in Mexico generate strong demand for U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat. In 2015/16, they were the leading HRW importers and are taking advantage of the favorable prices and high quality of the 2016/17 HRW crop. At a current volume of about 2.0 MMT, they have imported 79 percent more HRW this year and again lead buyers of that class. The association representing Mexican flour millers says a rising number of industrial bakeries, along with traditional artisanal bakeries, account for about 70 percent of the country’s wheat consumption. That puts HRW producers in a good position to meet that demand. Being closer to HRW production and having a highly functioning ability to import a large share of HRW directly via rail and duty free from the Plains states is an advantage for Mexico’s buyers.

In addition, Mexico is home to Bimbo, the world’s largest baked goods company, and an increasing number of cookie and cracker companies. The functional properties of U.S. soft red winter wheat (SRW) is well suited to the production of cookies, crackers and pastries, and serves as an excellent blending wheat. Millers supplying this growing market imported an average of 1.2 MMT of SRW between 2011/12 and 2015/16. With imports from the Gulf of more than 1.0 MMT of SRW in 2016/17, Mexico was the top buyer of SRW again. USW and state wheat commissions from the PNW are also helping demonstrate how millers and bakers can reduce input costs by using U.S. soft white (SW) as a blending wheat for specialty flour products.

The successful story of how U.S. wheat farmers and their customers in Mexico have worked together in a mutually beneficial way and, for now, U.S. wheat continues to flow to our customers in Mexico.