thumbnail

By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to visit U.S. wheat customers overseas to learn more about international markets, customer needs, and the role of U.S. wheat in their businesses. This year, USW Assistant Director of Policy Elizabeth Westendorf led a team of three farmers to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. The team included: Al Klempel, a hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat farmer from Bloomfield, Mont. representing the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; Kent Lorens, a HRW and hard white (HW) wheat farmer from Stratton, Neb., representing the Nebraska Wheat Board; and Casey Madsen, a HRW and HW wheat farmer from Pine Bluffs, Wyo., representing the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission.

They were accompanied by Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions and Rutger Koekoek, USW Regional Marketing Director, from the USW Rotterdam Office, as well as Mina El Hachimi, USW Director of Finance and Administration; Peter Lloyd, USW Regional Technical Director; and Tarik Gahi, USW Milling and Baking Technologist, from the USW Casablanca Office.

The 2019 USW EU-MEENA Board Team and USW staff in Spain during a visit with leadership from Harinas Polo and staff from the U.S. Embassy in front of the Harinas Polo mill.

In Spain, the team visited a pasta factory and several flour mills. They learned the importance of Spain’s growing pasta industry and visited a company capitalizing on health foods trends with innovative seeds and grains blends. The largest pasta producing company in Spain, Grupo Gallo, was the first to introduce semolina-based pasta to Spain in the 1960s when they brought durum wheat into the country. Prior to that, Spain only consumed pasta from common wheat. Today, Spanish millers value stability and consistency in the U.S. wheat they buy, and these qualities become even more important as companies continue to expand into convenience products. In Portugal, this theme of appreciating quality continued, with companies constantly seeking new ways to innovate in the market and distinguish their products from competitors.

After Portugal, the team left the EU to visit USW’s office and customers in Morocco. They met with Moroccan Office of Cereals (ONICL) and spoke about continued progress in implementation of the U.S.-Moroccan Free Trade Agreement, which includes a wheat tariff-rate quota. As in Spain and Portugal, Moroccan mills appreciate U.S. wheat quality, and companies targeting the high-quality niche market know they are well-served with U.S. wheat.

Visiting Kenz Maroc in Morocco. (L to R) Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions; Al Klempel, Montana; Casey Madsen, Wyoming; Kenz Maroc leadership; Kent Lorens, Nebraska; Mina El Hachimi, USW Director of Finance and Administration; Peter Lloyd, Regional Technical Director.

“The Moroccan market is very different from that of Spain or Portugal,” says Westendorf. “But the demand for high-quality wheat is still very evident and will continue to grow. We need to make sure that U.S. wheat maintains its reputation as the world’s most reliable choice by continuing to support our customers through trade and technical service, as well as varietal improvement programs.”

Al Klempel (Montana) and Casey Madsen (Wyoming) speak with Kenz Maroc leadership during a mill tour in Morocco.

In Morocco, the team also visited the Institut de Formation de l’Indstrie Meunière (IFIM), a milling school in Casablanca that USW started in partnership with the Moroccan Millers Federation in 1994. This school trains millers that work all over Africa and the Middle East, and the school is proud to continue partnering with USW to introduce students to the value of high-quality wheat in milling.

Visiting IFIM and touring the training mill, where the team saw equipment sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates. (L to R): Al Klempel (Montana), Kent Lorens (Nebraska) and Casey Madsen (Wyoming).

USW board teams provide a valuable experience for U.S. wheat farmers to see the hard work of our foreign offices and the results that work produces. It also allows U.S. wheat customers to meet with the farmers producing their wheat, and to better understand the strong value that farmers place on producing an excellent crop.

The team will report to the USW board of directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/uswheat/.

*Header Photo Caption: The 2019 USW EU-MEENA Board Team with USW and U.S. Embassy staff during a visit with the technical director of Grupo Gallo at its mill and pasta factory in Spain.

Customer service is defined as the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. When it comes to international trade relationships, customer service is expanded to include managing relationships and being able to ensure a reliable, quality supply.

Twice every year, U.S. Associates (USW) sends U.S. wheat farmer leaders overseas to help cultivate relationships with the people who import, mill and use the wheat they grow. USW refers to these delegations as “Board Teams” because they typically include members of USW’s board of directors who are selected by state wheat commission members. These missions help strengthen customer relationships but also give the participants the chance to see how the organization and local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff work together to represent U.S. farmers.

Bound this month for Spain, Portugal and Morocco, the next Board Team includes: Alan Klempel of Bloomfield, Mont., representing the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; Kent Lorens of Stratton, Neb., representing the Nebraska Wheat Board; Casey Madsen of Pine Bluffs, Wyo., representing the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission; and team leader Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy.

The team will also be joined by Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for the European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions, as well as Rutger Koekoek, USW Regional Marketing Director. The visits to Spain and Portugal, which are part of the European Union, will provide an introduction to two sophisticated markets, where the United States is seeing increased competition from nearby exporting countries. In Morocco, where wheat imports are subject to tariff rate quotas (TRQs) under two separate trade agreements with the EU and the United States, the team will see how a government buying system works. Throughout the trip the team will have the opportunity to meet with several customers and government officials and tour many facilities.

The team members will report back to USW directors later this year and, as regional leaders, to their wheat farmer neighbors.

Photos and comments from the team’s activities will be posted on USW’s Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

Al Klempel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kent Lorens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey Madsen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Westendorf.

thumbnail

By Catherine Miller, USW Programs and Planning Coordinator

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in a “Board Team” trip overseas to follow their wheat and learn from customers about the quality characteristics needed in those markets. In February the first USW Board Team of 2019 traveled to Southeast Asia—one of the largest and fastest growing wheat import regions. Stops in the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia gave the team the opportunity to visit important markets and learn more about how wheat-based products are re-shaping consumer demand.

The 2019 USW Southeast Asia Board Team included Joe Anderson of Lewiston, Idaho, representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; Wally Powell of Condon, Ore., representing the Oregon Wheat Commission; Philip Volk, of York, N.D., representing the North Dakota Wheat Commission; and team leader Catherine Miller, USW Program and Planning Coordinator.

In the Philippines, the team enjoyed a meeting and tour with Wellington Flour Mills. They were joined by company President Ty Weevens (center, front row), whose grandparents originally start the family-owned mill, along with a few cousins who are also apart of the mill’s operations.

In Manila, Republic of the Philippines, the team met with traders, millers and bakers. Each meeting focused on the importance of high-quality wheat to create high quality end-products. The team visited a flour mill, as well as an industrial cracker facility. The team found a common theme that consumers here are looking for more convenience and shifting from traditionally rice-based staple foods to more wheat and grain-based meals. This is a huge market driver for a variety of cookies, crackers and bread products.

“One of our lunches with USW staff and four different mills was one of the highlights,” said Powell. “It was so beneficial to spend that time with them and share a meal.”

Lunch with grain traders in the Philippines.

One of the highlights in Manila was attending the 10th International Exhibition on Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, known as “Bakery Fair 2019,” hosted by the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. While visiting different exhibits, labeling on some of the flour bags stood out to Anderson: “They said ‘Certified U.S. Wheat.’ That shows the success USW has had building a preference for our wheat, and I’m proud of that.”

In Singapore, the team members next visited a bakery training and supply company. They also had briefings from USW/Singapore regional staff member, who demonstrated how producer-funded USW activities are carried out in the region and how USW works together with local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff to represent U.S. farmers.

Next, the team traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, where they met with the largest flour mill in the world, as well as three competing milling companies. The contrast in bakeries between the Philippines and Indonesia, where small-medium end-user enterprises (SME’s) dominate 67 percent the market, was quite clear.

“This was one of the biggest surprises for me, especially since these SME’s sometimes only use one 25 kilogram bag of flour per day,” said Anderson.

During their visit to Indonesia, the team visited Dynamic Bakery, which is a customer of Bogasari, the largest flour mill in Indonesia.

The team toured three of those bakeries in Jakarta. SME’s vary from home-based bakeries to medium scale businesses with a store front. The at-home bakeries were truly unique, and the importance of these niche producers really resonated with the group.

In such a rapidly growing wheat foods market, there are fears that “Indonesia will run out of milling capacity within the next few years if markets keep growing at the present pace,” according to one milling executive. One reason: the cost of production is a limiting factor; logistics alone make up 10 percent of variable costs.

At another flour mill, the group learned more about current market trends. In Indonesia, about 50 percent of flour in the market goes to instant noodle production. Currently, noodle production is met largely with flour from Australian white wheat. However, the team was told there is at least a window of opportunity for U.S. hard red winter wheat, especially given the recent production challenges that have significantly bumped up Australian wheat import prices.

During their visit to Indonesia, the team visited and toured Bogasari, the country’s largest flour mill, which has approximately 50% of the country’s market share. They were also joined in Indonesia by Matt Weimar, USW Regional Vice President for South Asia; and Ivan Goh, USW Biscuit/Bakery and Noodle Technologist.

“It was clear that the uncertainty of low margins and where the price of wheat will be next year was an overall concern for all markets” said Volk. “This just proves that overall U.S. wheat quality needs to be consistent from year to year.”

The team will report to the USW board of directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/uswheat/.

*Header Photo Caption: Visit to MY San – the market leading biscuit company in the Philippines. Mt. Makiling is in the background. (L to R) Phil Volk, North Dakota Wheat Commission; Joe Anderson, Idaho Wheat Commission; Catherine Miller, USW Programs and Planning Coordinator; Wally Powell, Oregon Wheat Commission; and Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President for Philippines and Korea.

Diplomacy is defined as the profession, activity or skill of managing international relations, typically by a country’s representatives abroad and, secondarily, the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way.

While the local representatives of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) are well versed in the art of diplomacy, twice every year USW sends leading U.S. farmers overseas as ambassadors to the people who import, mill and use the wheat they grow.

USW refers to these delegations as “Board Teams” because they typically include members of USW’s board of directors who are selected by state wheat commission members. Such “diplomatic” missions help strengthen customer relationships but also give the participants the chance to see how the organization and local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff work together to represent U.S. farmers.

Bound this month for the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, the next Board Team includes: Joseph Anderson of Lewiston, Idaho, representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; Wally Powell of Condon, Ore., representing the Oregon Wheat Commission; Philip Volk, of York, N.D., representing the North Dakota Wheat Commission; and team leader Catherine Miller, Program and Planning Coordinator with USW.

The team will get orientated for their trip at the USW West Coast Office in Portland, Ore., including time with USW staff to learn more about the “nuts and bolts” of USW’s market development programs and what to expect when traveling overseas, the Wheat Marketing Center, Federal Grain Inspection Service, an export elevator and OMIC USA.

The vibrant milling and wheat foods industries in the Philippines and Indonesia will provide an excellent introduction to growing markets. For example, Indonesia is expected to become the world’s largest wheat importer in the future fueled by an average increase in flour consumption of about five percent per year. The team’s visit to the USW South Asian Regional Office in Singapore will also expose the participants to the hub of export market development activity in the region.

The team members will report back to USW directors later this year and, as regional leaders, to their wheat farmer neighbors.

Photos and comments from the team’s activities will be posted on USW’s Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

Joe Anderson.

Wally Powell.

Phil Volk.

Catherine Miller.

thumbnail

By Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and Director, West Coast Office

In Latin America, the holidays are filled with special wheat food traditions. Mexicans celebrate the visit of the Three Kings to the Christ child with Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake Wreath), a ring-shaped sweet bread. In Peru, wheat consumption increases with Panettone bread sales. This holiday sweet bread can be traced back to the Italian bakers that made Peru their home many generations ago.

Special holiday breads are thriving despite a baking industry transitioning from artisan bakery shops to highly automated commercial operations. Such modern bakeries employ equipment that drives a need for ever more consistent, high-quality flour.

It was in this context that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), with funding from member state wheat commissions and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, assembled a team of leading wheat breeders to visit the top markets in Latin America. This Wheat Quality Improvement Team (WQIT) traveled to Mexico City, Mexico, Guatemala City, Guatemala, San Jose, Costa Rica and Lima, Peru, Dec. 8 to 18, 2018. Meetings with several food processing and flour milling industry representatives focused on U.S. wheat quality relative to the unique production challenges these customers face.

Wheat farmers, state wheat commissions, and public and private breeders understand that the end-use quality of U.S. wheat, as measured by end-use functionality, is more important than ever before in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace Such direct input from Latin American food processing companies to breeders is one of the ways USW is helping determine breeding targets, as well as helping develop selection criteria for new variety releases. The face-to-face interaction with breeders in this activity helps overseas buyers understand that U.S. wheat quality is no accident but is, rather, the product of investment from farmers and years of scientific work.

Customers shared several preferred characteristics from U.S. wheat including consistent quality from shipment to shipment, increased dough strength and water absorption, and lower polyphenol oxidase (PPO) to prevent color change. These messages and more will be relayed to state wheat commissions at upcoming Wheat Quality Council meetings in Portland, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo.

Market development programs like this Wheat Quality Improvement Team help ensure that Latin American sweet breeds like the Rosca de Reyes and Panettone continue to be a holiday tradition — made with high-quality wheat from the United States.

Participating Wheat Breeders 

The WQIT to Latin America in December included:

  • Guorong Zhang, Leader, Kansas State wheat breeding program and Associate Professor at Kansas State University;
  • Brett Carver, Wheat Genetics Chair in Agriculture, Oklahoma State University;
  • Mike Giroux, Co-director of the Montana State Wheat Quality Laboratory and leader of the Montana State durum breeding program;
  • Jackie Rudd, Leader of the hard winter wheat breeding program for the High Plains and Rolling Plains of Texas;
  • Arron Carter, Director of the winter wheat breeding and genetics program at Washington State University;
  • Mr. Steve Wirsching, USW Vice President and Director, West Coast Office.

The team and USW Staff in front of the Presedente Hotel in Mexico City.

thumbnail

By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

 

Things have changed in Nigeria’s flour milling industry. Members of a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board Team meeting with millers in Lagos recently learned more about how the West African nation’s economy and consumer preferences are forcing mills to reduce costs and produce a wider range of flour products without diminishing quality.

 

State wheat commission leaders who participated in the Sub-Saharan Africa Board Team that traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, included Jay Armstrong of Muscotah, Kan., a Past-Chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission and USW director, Michael Edgar of Yuma, Ariz., and Don Schieber of Ponca City, Okla., who are both Past USW Chairmen. USW staff included Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer and Assistant Regional Director Chad Weigand. USW Marketing Consultant James Ogunyemi and Administrative Officer Olatunde Omatayo, based in Lagos, and Regional Director Gerald Theus, based in Cape Town, met the Team in Lagos.

 

Many millions of Nigerians cannot afford to spend much more than $2 on food every day, according to USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Regional Agricultural Counselor Jude Akhidenor, who briefed the Team in Lagos.

 

“We used to sell all we could produce; now we produce only what we can sell,” the general manager of a leading Nigerian flour milling company told the Team. He said consumers are looking for variety and mills are competing aggressively to respond. High-loaf bread is being eclipsed by instant noodles and pasta as staples.

 

Nigeria is one of the few global markets that has imported all six U.S. wheat classes. The changes in the market are putting pressure on Nigerian mills to cut their costs, however, leading to a growing volume of imported Black Sea region wheat because its price has been significantly lower than the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) that used to dominate Nigerian imports. Nevertheless, one leading miller in Nigeria continues to import HRW even in the face of that price difference.

 

USW 2018 Sub-Saharan Africa Team, L – R, James Ogunyemi, Chad Weigand, Oletunde Omatayo, Steve Mercer, Michael Edgar (behind), Gerald Theus, Jay Armstrong, Don Schieber.

 

The team members noted that the price of HRW and other U.S. classes is determined transparently by the market, not by farmers or the sellers and emphasized the industry’s efforts to continue improving HRW milling, baking and processing characteristics. The shift will likely continue, the millers said, even though they know by experience that HRW offers consistent performance and usually higher quality milling characteristics than Black Sea wheat.

 

“For those who like to see things stay as they are, that would be disappointing,” said Armstrong. “Markets change, however, and for those who like to adapt to new markets this could be viewed as an opportunity. To be more competitive again in Nigeria, I believe we will have to ramp up production of hard white (HW) wheat back at home. The millers we met with in Nigeria and in South Africa all made it clear the benefits of hard white wheat would outweigh cost differences.”

 

After USW introduced HW to Nigerian millers in 2008, Nigeria became the leading global importer of this wheat class.

 

Scaling up HW production in the United States to the point at which exportable supplies are consistently available will take a long, sustained effort. There are signs that the industry is moving in that direction.

 

Hard red winter wheat, however, will remain a very competitive class in the domestic market and in many other parts of the world. The U.S. supply chain is doing all it can to make HRW as competitive as possible, including opportunities to reduce export basis. This year, as exportable Russian wheat supplies decline or are blocked by government interference, Nigeria’s millers will be prepared to import more HRW.

 

From Lagos, the team travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then to the capital city of Pretoria to meet the USDA/FAS agricultural team headed by recently posted Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs Jim Higgiston. Over lunch, he and his colleagues discussed the South African agricultural economy and unique challenges including the government policy of “expropriation” of land.

 

Income and gross domestic product are significantly higher in South Africa compared to Nigeria, but as they visited flour millers there the last two days of their trip, the Team members heard that cost is also a determining factor. In addition, the South African government sets domestic wheat prices at levels that remain consistently more competitive than U.S. No. 2 HRW prices to encourage production at home.

 

The USW Board Team at Tiger Foods headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa.

 

Three meetings with the flour milling divisions of successful South African food companies rounded out the team’s trip.

 

“It was very encouraging to hear that South Africa’s millers like U.S. wheat very much and do import more of it when prices are more competitive,” said Schieber. “And the people we met were so welcoming. One of the managers spent the last free day on our trip taking me to visit an implement dealer and a farm machinery show. I really appreciate that.”

 

Two additional highlights of the team’s South African visit were a tour of a plant where a popular, wheat breakfast food is produced and time with a very impressive South African family at their large dairy and grain farm.

 

USW and the team members want to thank all the customers they met on this trip for their candor and hospitality, and the USW staff who worked hard to make the arrangements, including Financial Accountant Cathy Marais and Regional Program Coordinator Domenique Opperman based in the USW Cape Town Regional Office.

 

When he joined USDA in 2017 as the first Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Ted McKinney said he anticipated investing significant time overseas building trust, opening doors for farmers and processors [and] removing trade barriers.

“Half the battle of winning the game is showing up,” he said.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) completely agrees with Undersecretary McKinney. The U.S. wheat farmers from 17 states who direct our activities fully support eight U.S. citizens and 43 locally employed staff serving customers from 14 offices around the world. USW also sends leading U.S. farmers overseas twice a year to strengthen customer relationships and learn more about how the organization and local USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff are working toward the same goals Mr. McKinney described.

USW calls such delegations “Board Teams” because they typically include members of USW’s board of directors who are selected by state wheat commission members. The next Board Team leaves soon to visit customers in Lagos, Nigeria, and Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. Farmer participants include USW Past-Chairman Michael Edgar of Yuma, Ariz.; Don Schieber of Ponca City, Okla.; and Jay Armstrong of Muscotah, Kan., a Past-Chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission and USW director. USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer is participating as staff lead in his fourth Board Team since he joined USW in 2006.

The team will get orientated for their trip at USW Headquarters in Arlington, Va., before meeting with senior FAS officials in Washington, D.C. Lagos is the hub of Nigeria’s vital flour milling industry and the participants will meet with executives from four major flour mills as well as FAS staff posted in country. Flour mills and wheat food production facilities are on the itinerary as well for the South African leg of this Board Team.

These trips represent a valuable learning experience for the participating board members and wheat buyers, many of whom have never had the chance to hear why U.S. wheat classes offers the best value directly from the farmers who produce it.

This team will report to their fellow USW directors later this year. USW will post photos and comments from the trip on its Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

Michael Edgar.

Jay Armstrong.

Don Schieber.

Steve Mercer.

thumbnail

As U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Vince Peterson often says, at any given hour of the day there is someone, somewhere, talking about the quality, reliability and value of U.S. wheat. Wheat Letter wants to share some of the ways USW was working in June and July to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world grain market.

Sub-Saharan Africa. Flour milling executives from Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Liberia traveled to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas in June to get the latest information about hard red winter (HRW) wheat quality and value. The delegation experienced each part of the supply chain by visiting the Port of Corpus Christi and local grain elevators, participating in wheat harvest, meeting with USDA officials and discussing wheat quality at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. Also in June, another delegation from Nigeria and South Africa attended a two-week milling short course at the IGP Institute in Manhattan, Kan. Read more about these activities here and here.

South Asia. In June, the USW Singapore and Manila Offices led a week of Procurement and Mill Profitability Workshops in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Funded by the Washington Grain Commission (WGC), the activities included three full-day workshops focused on commodity price analysis to guide purchasing strategies and increase mill profitability.

Philippines. A delegation of four leaders from the Philippine flour milling industry traveled to Oregon, Washington D.C. and Washington state in June to meet with state wheat commissions, producers and grain traders, and visit a port loading facility and an FGIS dockside laboratory. In the U.S. capital, the team discussed various trade policy topics, including issues related to Turkish flour imports. Read more about this delegation here.

Ecuador and Chile. In June, a delegation of four millers from Ecuador and Chile traveled to Nebraska, North Dakota and Oregon to gain a better understanding of the wheat marketing and the supply chain. The delegation’s travel included visits to HRW and soft white (SW) producing area, an export elevator, FGIS laboratory and meetings with wheat producers and grain exporters.

Haiti. USW staff traveled to Haiti in June to meet with Haitian millers, wheat importers, the U.S. Embassy and the Haitian Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) to discuss and review the status of possible dumping of Turkish wheat flour exports to Haiti and how it negatively affects the local wheat milling industry. Industry sources estimate Haitian Turkish flour imports have reached nearly 40,000 tons annually, and are entering the country at an understated price on the invoice value presented to Haitian customs. Read more about this activity here.

Taiwan. USW collaborated with the Lien Hwa Flour Mill and Chia Nan University in June to host a noodle making contest using flour from U.S. wheat classes. The contest was divided into two groups for machine-made noodle and hand-made noodles. After making their noodles, participants had to include them in a creative dish for the judges. 64 participants entered the contest.

Korea. In June, USW sponsored a Baking Product Development Course for Korean millers at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC), Portland, Ore., that focused on U.S. wheat flour blending research.

Japan. A delegation of Japanese mid-level mill managers traveled to Oregon, Washington and North Dakota in July to learn more about this year’s crop and better understand the U.S. wheat supply chain.

Honduras. USW conducted baking seminars and in plant consultations with leading Honduran bakeries in July which focused on using new technological advancements. USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada was interviewed on a live television program for 40 minutes that was disseminated through Facebook to consumers across the country.

thumbnail

By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Every year USW sends board teams overseas to give leading U.S. wheat farmers the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics their markets prioritize, and to strengthen the relationship between wheat farmers and their customers. One of those teams returned from a trip to Asian countries in mid-March.

The 2018 Asia Board Team, led by USW Market Analyst, Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, traveled to China and Taiwan. The team included: Mike Carstensen, a wheat farmer from Almira, Wash., and a current USW director representing the Washington Grain Commission; Clark Hamilton, a wheat farmer from Ririe, Ida., and a current USW director representing the Idaho Wheat Commission; Gordon Stoner, a wheat farmer from Outlook, Mont., and the past president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), and Scott Swenson, a wheat farmer from Elbow Lake, Minn., and Treasurer of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council.

In Qingdao, China, the team met with traders, millers and bakers who provided a unique perspective on the processing and marketing sectors of the wheat value chain. They also toured retail bakeries where they sampled traditional Chinese baked goods and visited an instant noodle and puff snack factory. The team was impressed with the freshness, variety and quality of the products and were particularly fond of a chocolate bread with mango filling. The team learned that stability time, water absorption, protein and color are especially important to the Chinese baking industry.

“At each meeting, the team heard how Chinese millers use U.S. wheat to improve flour products to meet customer demands. In return, team members shared information about the research programs in the United States and the focus on improving quality through the adoption of preferred variety lists,” said Bryant-Erdmann. “The message to customers was U.S. wheat farmers are committed to producing a high-quality product that meets their customer needs.”

U.S. wheat faces several challenges in China, including perennial trade policy issues and strong competition from Canada. U.S. soft wheat represents a good opportunity for continued growth in a market that is growing in sophistication both from the consumer side and from the milling and end-product manufacturing side.

In Taiwan, the team met with the Taiwanese Flour Millers Association, where they learned more about the high-quality Taiwan flour market. Carstensen, Hamilton, Stoner and Swenson each spoke about current growing and planting conditions on their farms and provided an early outlook for the 2018/19 wheat crop — noting that weather would play a big role in final planting decisions, yields and production. Stoner also gave the group a U.S. farm bill update, highlighting the importance of the various programs to U.S. farmers and their customers.

As a first-time board team traveler, Mike Carstensen said “the opportunity to meet with customers and learn more about their business is invaluable. The feedback on wheat quality characteristics is important for us to hear and bring back to share with our wheat breeders.”

Customers in both countries also expressed interest in buying hard white (HW) wheat. Hamilton was able to share his perception of the challenges and opportunities facing U.S. HW production and marketing.

The team also toured Taiwanese wheat food manufacturing plants, retail bakeries and a flour mill with the representatives from the American Institute of Taiwan and the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office. One highlight was visiting the Chimei showcase bakery and trying traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. Swenson was impressed with the wide range of products, some of which are available in the United States.

“The world is a small place and maintaining the strong relationship between the U.S. wheat farmer and their overseas customers is crucial to the continued success of both,” he said.

U.S. wheat enjoys a strong loyalty from its Taiwanese customers, with the strongest competition coming from containerized shipments of Australian wheat. Improving U.S. logistics for containerized wheat was a long-term concern the team identified and plans to share with their fellow commission members.

The team will report to the USW board later this year. To see pictures from the trip please visit the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat.

thumbnail

Each year, USW sponsors overseas customers to travel to the United States as members of a trade delegation or to attend a short course, with more than 100 customers participating each year.

In 2017, USW sponsored a total of 72 participants from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe to attend seven short courses and four workshops at the Northern Crops Institute, the IGP Institute and Wheat Marketing Center, and for the first time, at the USDA Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio.

The courses provided by these institutions are instrumental in providing customers with the information needed for making future purchases by covering a range of topics to educate them on the value of U.S. wheat classes and providing exposure to the U.S. grain marketing system, the flow of grain from farm to port and the U.S. inspection system, to name a few. Through targeting bakers, millers and end-product manufacturers, USW and our partners showcase the quality of products that can be made using wheat from the United States.

Trade delegations are another way for customers to learn about U.S. wheat. This year, USW hosted a total of 12 trade delegations composed of 63 customers and 14 staff. Customers from Japan, Algeria, Morocco, Taiwan, Chile, Nigeria, South Africa, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore visited 11 states (California, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington), as well as Washington D.C., and USW’s Headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Visiting wheat-producing states allows customers to directly connect with farmers, state wheat commissions and industry partners, while learning about the U.S. wheat marketing structure and transportation logistics.

Whether it is through short courses or trade delegations, the goal is the same for USW and partners: to promote the reliability, quality and value of all six U.S. wheat classes to customers around the world. Our success relies on the success of our customers and their ability to create products that appeal to consumers in markets around the globe.