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Originally printed in Dakota Gold, June 2020, Volume 37, No. 4; Reprinted with permission from the North Dakota Wheat Commission

Dr. Senay Simsek, Bert L. D’Appolonia Cereal Science and Technology of Wheat Endowed Professor, will be leaving North Dakota State University (NDSU) at the end of June to take a position at Purdue University as the head of the Food Science Department. Even though she may be leaving NDSU, the work that she has done will leave a lasting impact.

Dr. Simsek began her career at NDSU in 2007 after obtaining her Ph.D. from Purdue. While she was fairly new to world of wheat, her background in cereal and food chemistry prepared her well for the role.

A significant portion of Dr. Simsek’s position has been to manage the wheat quality lab at NDSU. The lab analyzes thousands of spring wheat lines each year, including breeder material and samples for the regional crop quality report that is used by thousands of customers each year. Simsek also took on numerous graduate students in her 14 years at NDSU, training the next generation of cereal science professionals. She completed extensive amounts of research, mostly related to wheat quality and performance, many of the ideas which came about after discussions with domestic and international customers and her desire to help solve issues or answer questions customers had about various topics.

Showing Dr. Senay Simsek at work for USW in the Philippines

During one of her many consulting activities promoting U.S. spring wheat, Dr. Senay Simsek paused with Ellison Dean Lee, Managing Director, Universal Robina Co. Flour, Philippines, to point out the American Quality Wheat seal on packages of URC’s Baker John brand pan bread.

Clear Competence

Joe Sowers, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Regional Vice President based in the Philippines recalls the first time he met Dr. Simsek in Fargo with a high-level delegation of Filipino millers.

“Through Senay’s affable charisma and clear competence in discussing wheat quality, she and the millers became fast friends. At the end of the meeting the Director of the Philippine Flour Millers Association told me that training from Dr. Simsek was what his industry needed,” Sowers said.

The next year Dr. Simsek provided her first training to the Philippine millers and returned ten times after that, fostering strong relationships with millers in the Philippines and helping to maintain the country as the top HRS market. Dr. Simsek provided training in many other countries and presented on USW sponsored crop quality tours in all the major regions – reaching thousands of customers during her career at NDSU.

“Every visit Senay made to various customers around the world paid off for U.S. wheat farmers,” Sowers added. “Her ability to illustrate the superior quality profiles offered by U.S. HRS was integral in proving its value to the milling and baking industries, reinforcing their preference for U.S. HRS.”

Passion for Wheat Quality

Presenting quality data, conducting training, and completing research on behalf of customers became a top priority for Simsek and one that benefited producers tremendously. Greg Svenningsen, NDWC Chairman says, “when you saw her interacting with a trade team, you could easily see her passion for wheat quality and that her expertise was well received by customers. As a producer, I didn’t always understand the topic or the in-depth technicalities of some of the discussion, but what was evident was that she was providing much needed information to the industry and to our customers. In return, they could better understand our wheat and be maintained as customers.”

Dr. Senay Simsek at Northern Crops Institute

Dr. Senay Simsek enjoys a light moment with USW Regional Vice President Matt Weimar (L) and USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung (R) during one of the many events in which she participated with USW.

Sowers and others in the industry that traveled with Dr. Simsek over the years noted that her energy, friendliness, and willingness to build relationships with customers melded with her extensive scientific background to make her a sought-after resource for customers. While Dr. Simsek will be missed by colleagues at NDSU and North Dakota producers, we hope to see her involved with U.S. wheat promotion in some format.

Dr. Senay Simsek and USW's Joe Sowers at Philippines flour mill.

Dr. Senay Simsek and USW Regional Vice President Joe Sowers (L) with a flour milling team in the Philippines.

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By Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for Philippines and Korea

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is very pleased that the Tariff Commission of the Republic of the Philippines has extended anti-dumping duties on imports of wheat flour originating and exported from the Republic of Turkey until 2023. The commission’s ruling, announced Sept. 9, 2020, extended anti-dumping duties that were first imposed in 2014 after PAFMIL, the Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc., proved that Turkish flour imports threatened to cause material injury to the domestic milling industry. The decision marks the culmination of a decade-long effort by the Philippine flour industry to deter Turkey’s unfair trade practices and secure a fair and competitive market for wheat and flour trade.

USW and U.S. officials have been aware for many years that the Turkish government employs a complex, inward processing scheme that creates incentives for its milling industry to export flour regardless of price, distorting and disrupting flour markets around the world. In making its original case to the Philippine Tariff Commission, PAFMIL argued that the landed cost of Turkish flour was much lower than imported flour from other countries, lower than the prices of flour produced by the Philippine industry and, indeed, well below flour prices in Turkey. USW provided significant information on relative costs and other factors that supported PAFMIL’s case.

In 2014, anti-dumping duties of up to 16.19% were imposed on Turkish flour. Combined with the MFN tariff rate of 7 percent, the duties were enough to reduce imports of Turkish flour by more than 70 percent and allow the Philippine milling industry to increase production of flour needed to make high-quality Philippine wheat food products. The growth in demand for locally produced flour allowed mills to expand and helped smaller and independent Philippine flour milling companies to enter the growing market.

U.S. wheat farmers, who have had representation in the Philippines for 59 years, will also see benefits from PAFMIL’s effort. The Philippines is currently the world’s third largest wheat importer, with demand for wheat flour and milling wheat nearly doubling in the last decade. Its expanding population, coupled with increasing per capita income, has contributed to a surge in consumption of wheat-based products, especially bread, noodles, biscuits and cakes. The Philippine milling industry purchases nearly all its milling wheat from the United States for its quality and consistency. The impact of PAFMIL’s effort is clear with imports of U.S. hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat rising from 2.16 million metric tons (MMT) in marketing year 2015/16 to 3.58 MMT in 2019/20.

Source: USDA

 

Source: USDA

However, the original tariffs were set to expire at the end of 2019 and PAFMIL’s request for extension had to make the case that ending the tariffs would encourage Turkish exporters to target the Philippines again, increasing exports through their established dumping practices and, in turn, resume its threat to the Philippine milling industry.

PAFMIL’s successful petition to the Tariff Commission stated: “Once the duty is lifted, Turkish flour will come in at even lower prices and cause damage to the local industry. Extension of the anti-dumping duty will help these emerging independent Philippine flour millers to establish themselves and even expand such that the needs of the Philippine market for flour will be fully addressed.” After finding that Turkish exporters continued to dump flour in the Philippines during the period of investigation and would likely resume large scale exports should the duties be lifted, the Tariff Commission extended the anti-dumping duties for another three years, in fact increasing the top rate to 29.57 percent.

As an organization that believes in the value of a trade environment in which the participants compete fairly and openly, USW was happy to support PAFMIL’s request to reinstate the anti-dumping duties. And we were humbled by a recent letter from PAFMIL Executive Director Ric Pinca to our organization:

“I write to thank you for the support and encouragement the U.S. Wheat Associates extended … in our campaign for fair trade against the Turkish government and its wheat flour milling industry. It was a difficult and uphill fight, but we had the truth and your support behind us. With these, we never wavered in our confidence and we have been rewarded with a favorable ruling by the Philippine Tariff Commission … We couldn’t have gained this victory without your unceasing support, for which we are deeply appreciative and grateful.”

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes customer engagement, supply chain transparency and free access to market information are the building blocks for robust relationships with U.S. wheat overseas customers. Every year, USW hosts several foreign trade delegations on trips to the United States to help foster these relationships. These delegations of millers, bakers, wheat buyers and executives from overseas mills and end-product manufacturers visit many stops along the U.S. wheat supply chain including wheat farms, state wheat commissions, export inspection facilities, export elevators, test labs, wheat breeding programs, bakeries and more. These trips are designed to assure overseas customers of the quality, abundance, end-use versatility and value of U.S. wheat.

This week, I joined my USW colleagues in Portland, Ore., who hosted a trade delegation of milling executives, including vice presidents, marketing directors and quality control and plant managers, from the Philippines. Many participants were from companies that are customers of U.S. wheat, yet had never been to the United States themselves. On day one, I asked each participant about what they wanted to learn on the 10-day trip. Interests ranged from supply chain management to best practices in flour milling and quality control measures to visiting export terminals and wheat farms Others were looking forward to learning more about quality benchmarks at U.S. bakeries and discussing new marketing insights which could appeal to the growing “foodie” generation of Filipino consumers. Each trade delegation experience is a little different, but each offers a variety of tours, meetings and seminars to address the diverse needs of each group.

The delegations first visit was to the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC), where they met Managing Director Janice Cooper, Technical Director Dr. Jayne Bock and a team of technical specialists. WMC demonstrates U.S. wheat quality and marketing differentiation by providing flour and end-use research and technical training. The delegation watched WMC specialists use a new solvent retention capacity (SRC) testing machine that creates a “fingerprint” analysis of the wheat. The delegation was very interested in the test’s ability to accurately predict end-use functionality for high volume samples of soft and hard wheat flours. Participants emphasized that flour consistency is a high priority for consumers and wanted to know more about research in the United States addressing this issue. WMC staff explained that U.S. wheat farmers use precision agriculture tools to better regulate and monitor nitrogen application, which minimizes fertilizer waste and helps stabilize wheat protein levels. WMC is also conducting tests to determine if wheat with different protein levels can be still be used to create similar end-products like cakes and cookies. Members of the delegation also asked about recommended wheat and flour tests, significant issues facing the future of consistency in wheat production and what is next for the future of wheat quality testing.

Watching a demonstration at the Wheat Marketing Center.

Next, during a tour with the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), the delegation had a first-hand look at the third-party, impartial testing procedures conducted by government inspection specialists at export elevators. FGIS falls under the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service and assures, through rigid testing procedures, the quality and quantity of every grain order placed through U.S. export terminals. Through random sampling, compared to the size of the wheat shipment, FGIS specialists test for moisture, protein, unusual odors, insects, dockage, test weight, shrunken and broken particles, class and dark hard vitreous levels of each outbound wheat shipment.

Touring FGIS with commodity grader, Sam Stanley

At the Oregon Wheat Commission (OWC), the delegation met with Walter Powell, Oregon wheat farmer and OWC chairman, and Blake Rowe, OWC chief executive officer. Together, Powell and Rowe gave an excellent presentation on Oregon’s soft white (SW) wheat crop quality and marketing conditions, trade issues facing the industry and the Commission’s Wheat Quality Program. They explained that the program creates a “quality loop,” in which public crop quality data is used to inform customers, whose feedback in return directs private and public wheat breeding initiatives to improve end-use versatility and value. Powell and Rowe assured the delegation that customers have ownership in the quality development process by voicing their unique needs to members of the U.S. wheat industry.

The delegation started its second day at Franz Bakery, a large-scale U.S. bakery that services grocery stores, schools and chain restaurants in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). At the 113-year-old Portland facility, the delegation asked about marketing techniques, product differentiation and transportation logistics that allow the bakery to maintain its large PNW presence. Jodie Kelley, a Franz Bakey tour guide, emphasized that the business has been family-owned and operated since its inception, which gives it a unique marketing edge in the United States. By offering a variety of products, the bakery caters to a large customer base, including fast food chains and customers with different dietary restrictions and preferences.

The delegation’s next stop, Little T Bakery—a small, artisan bakery—gave the team a more intimate look at end-use versatility for locally-sourced SW wheat, spelt and whole-wheat flours. Unlike Franz Bakery, Little T Bakery caters to a much smaller community, baking only what it needs for the day and distributing minimally to local restaurants. Participants were greeted by the owner and baker, Tim Healea, who talked about local wheat sourcing and the challenges of marketing simple, traditional recipes in a trend-oriented industry. Team members asked about the popularity of GMO-free and gluten-free products. Healea believes the trend in gluten-free labeling is on the decline and does not market gluten-free products in his bakery.

Sampling artisan bread goods at Little T Bakery with owner and baker Tim Healea.

After the bakery tours, the delegation visited United Grain Corporation (UGC) export elevator, the biggest in the PNW at a 220,000 metric ton total storage capacity. UGC grain traders took the delegation through the technical control room that oversees all yard operations, the inspection facility that performs similar quality tests to FGIS, the rail unloading yard and the barge unloading dock. Participants asked questions about insect control, grain cleaning, quantity differentials at loading, the effects of rail costs on export and country elevator prices and the potential for rain damage during loading. At lunch, with members of the Pacific Grain Export Association (PGEA), UGC traders and a trader from Columbia Grain International gave crop quality reports on SW and hard red spring (HRS) wheat—top classes imported by the Philippines. In marketing year 2018/19, the Philippines was the largest importer of U.S. HRS and SW wheat and the second-largest overall importer of all U.S. wheat classes. The delegation was interested in hearing the traders’ long-term projections for SW wheat growth in the United States and traders shared that production should remain stable in the future as white wheat remains a “boutique” wheat on the global market, is unique to the PNW and highly valuable as an exportable commodity. Traders also forecast that customers will have access to large available supplies at reasonable prices as harvest in the PNW starts in the next few weeks. In return, to better understand the needs of their customers, traders asked the delegation about common blending practices, potential fumigation issues at delivery and vessel delays.

Touring UGC Vancouver, WA, export facility.

During the next eight days of their trip, the delegation will travel to Washington to visit wheat farms, a grain barge loading terminal, Washington State University’s Western Wheat Quality Lab and the Washington Grain Commission. Next, they will head to Idaho to visit a flour mill, a country elevator and the Idaho Wheat Commission. Finally, the delegation will finish its tour in Nebraska, where they will visit more wheat farms, another flour mill and the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Follow USW on Facebook and Twitter for pictures and updates about the delegation’s travels.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

Every year USW sends teams of U.S. farmers overseas to visit markets they supply with wheat. These regional visits highlight the day-to-day work and marketing strategies of USW’s overseas offices and connect the farmers to their customers and industry stakeholders.

“The feedback we hear consistently from our customers is how much they appreciate getting to know the farmer firsthand,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Vince Peterson. “These team visits give farmers the opportunity to follow their wheat overseas, and as businessmen and women, those personal connections are invaluable.”

USW Communications Specialist Amanda Spoo will lead USW’s 2017 South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines in February. The team includes Dustin Johnsrud, a wheat farmer from Epping, ND, serving his first four-year term on the North Dakota Wheat Commission; Denise Conover, a wheat farmer from Broadview, MT, and a director on the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; and Clint Vanneman, a wheat farmer from Ideal, SD, and a current USW director representing the South Dakota Wheat Commission.

The team will first meet at the USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, for briefings by USW and the Wheat Marketing Center, as well as visits to the Federal Grain Inspection Service and the local United Grain export terminal. During three days in Thailand, the team will visit the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking and Cooking School as well as tour a flour mill, a bakery and an international food manufacturing plant. The second leg of the trip features two days in the Philippines, which includes tours of a mill and a food manufacturer. The team will also have the opportunity to attend the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. (FCBAI) Bakery Fair.

The Thai milling wheat market has grown at a robust 5 percent for the past two years. USDA estimates that milling wheat demand reached 1 MMT for the first time in the 2012/13 marketing year and has increased to 1.24 MMT in 2016/17. Customers there imported about 50 percent of their milling wheat from the United States in 2015/16. In an evolving Thai market, consumer preferences are changing and there is increased demand for baked goods, biscuits and noodles. Over the past four decades, USW has worked closely with the UFM Baking and Cooking School in Bangkok to train and provide technical assistance to South Asian bakers and demonstrate the quality and value of U.S. wheat classes.

The Philippines was the third largest buyer of U.S. wheat in the 2015/16 marketing year with total imports reaching almost 2.2 MMT and was the largest buyer of both soft white (SW) and hard red spring (HRS). In this dynamic market, USW continues to help the milling and baking industry navigate changes by providing technical assistance and marketing training, and investing in activities to increase wheat flour consumption. USW established an office in Manila in 1961, allowing USW to maintain close, long-term relationships with industry leaders in the Philippines.

“Visiting these markets will give the farmers a unique look at the value of using high quality U.S. wheat and why these markets prefer it for their end-products,” said Peterson.

The team will post regular travel updates and photographs, and will report to the USW board. Follow their progress on the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat and on Twitter at @uswheatassoc.