Ecuador’s per capita consumption of wheat foods has rapidly increased in recent years, supported in part by governmental regulations limiting imports of finished products. Over the years, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cooperator U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has focused on demonstrating how using flour from U.S. hard red winter (HRW) can improve bread quality while reducing variable costs to build U.S. wheat share of Ecuador’s growing bread flour market.
The main constraint in this segment is a long-held reliance on higher protein Canadian wheat. To demonstrate the value of HRW wheat flour, USW used MAP funds in 2017 to conduct a baking seminar with a large commercial operation in Quito that supplies frozen dough and par-baked dough to fast food chains and the largest supermarket in Ecuador. The USW consultant demonstrated how the bakery could modify its processes using flour with a higher proportion of HRW wheat rather than with straight high-protein Canadian wheat flour and additives. This year, the company reported it has developed new products and will produce sliced bread and hamburger buns using HRW blended flour.
In September 2018, USW held seminars with two other bakeries with similar results. The seminars proved that U.S. HRW wheat flour reduced costs and improved the taste and quality of bread products. Both bakeries are changing their processes to product new products from the HRW blended flour. In 2019, USW also established its first contact with the largest commercial bakery in Ecuador that resulted in an agreement with USW to hold in-plant demonstrations of U.S. wheat flour blends.
To ensure HRW flour is available to those bakeries, USW has also conducted trade servicing and technical support for the largest flour miller in Ecuador. In June 2018, USW invited the main buyer from the premium mill to join a trade team to the United States. As a new employee of the mill, the buyer’s mind was more open to new opportunities and immediately after the trip he purchased a shipment of more than 11,000 metric tons of HRW and, in 2018, U.S. HRW and soft red winter (SRW) wheat made up 80% of the mill’s purchase volume. In 2019/20, under the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, USW will start to chip away at the Canadian wheat dominance at a large mill in Ecuador by bringing samples of HRW and in-plant technical support to demonstrate the value of the U.S. alternative.
USW has also expanded its activities with medium-sized mills that produce about 30% of Ecuador’s annual flour production. Since 2016, USW has conducted a variety of activities to help them purchase and process U.S. wheat as efficiently as possible. As a result, U.S. wheat is gaining a foothold, growing from 6.3% of the mid-sized mill purchases in 2017/18 to 15.8% in 2018/19.
Ecuador’s average annual purchase of HRW the past three marketing years is 101,000 metric tons, a significant increase over the three-year average of 46,200 metric tons in 2015/16 and SRW purchases of about 224,800 metric tons in 2018/19.