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Recently, Vietnam’s government advised the USDA that it would lift restrictions on imported U.S. food grains and feed grains. This change helped open an opportunity for Vietnamese flour millers who recently bought a large volume of U.S. soft white (SW) wheat, the first substantial sale of U.S. wheat to the Vietnam market in several months.

On Dec. 1, 2016, Vietnam implemented a requirement that all shipments of U.S. wheat, corn and distillers dried grain solids (DDGS) be fumigated with a product that U.S. export elevators are generally unable to use in bulk shipments. Vietnam now allows treatment with a generally accepted fumigation product throughout the global grain trade, to enter the country. An official phytosanitary certification from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will also be required.

USW continued to provide trade service to Vietnamese flour millers after this restriction was implemented. For example, Vietnamese flour milling executives recently joined a team of millers visiting the United States to learn more about U.S. wheat quality and the supply chain.

“Several of our staff worked with the grain trade, U.S. government agencies and our customers to develop workable solutions to this restriction,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Mark Fowler. “We appreciate their work and the cooperation of the U.S. and Vietnamese governments. We look forward to more normal trade with these customers.”

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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.

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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 will help reduce the cost of importing food, while creating jobs for the Angolan people and preserving foreign exchange. Angola annually imports an estimated 800,000 MT of processed wheat flour from various origins.

The country was not always dependent on flour imports. With support from state wheat commissions and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) export market development programs, USW introduced HRW wheat to Angolan milling companies in the 1990s through the USDA PL 480 Title 1 monetization program. The Angolan milling industry processed a significant volume of HRW, and Angolan bakers very much liked the quality of the HRW flour to make popular baguettes and Portuguese-style bread. When the Title 1 program ended in 2001, donated supplies of U.S. HRW were no longer available, so the Angolan government turned to subsidizing imported flour.

Economic conditions and the government’s new focus created an opportunity to begin increasing flour milling capacity. To build on its prior experience in Angola, USW invested funds from the FAS 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.

Early in 2016, under the FAS Quality Samples Program (QSP), USW coordinated the shipping of a HRW wheat sample to an Angolan mill, and a HRW flour sample to a bakery. Analysis of the samples all showed the HRW wheat and flour met industry standards and produced good quality products. The milling managers said they would strongly consider HRW for import, given competitive prices and expanded storage.

In a separate QSP activity, USW’s local representatives and staff from its West Coast Office in Portland, Ore., 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. U.S. Ambassador Helena M. La Lime and representatives from USW and NAMA celebrated the arrival of this shipment in a ceremony at the processing company in late February 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.”

In September 2017, USDA reported that an Angolan buyer had purchased 27,500 MT (almost 992,000 bushels) of HRW, the first U.S. wheat exported to the West African nation in many years.“I believe U.S. wheat farmers would be proud to know that their wheat has the potential to help improve economic conditions in Angola,” said USW Regional Vice President Ed Wiese. “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.”

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As 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 just 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.

Thailand. USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung, from the USW Singapore Office, conducted the annual 3-week Cookie and Cracker short course for 24 participants from across the South Asia region. As usual, there were more applicants than available spots. Participants noted that the course helps in applying new technology in their operations, developing new snack foods and other products and improving production processes, formulations and end product quality by using U.S. SW and SRW wheat classes instead competing origin wheat.

Morocco. The USW Casablanca Office continues to use the Quality Sample Program (QSP) for the Moroccan Milling Training Center (IFIM) in Casablanca. The milling school tests all classes of U.S. wheat and conducts blending activities. Through the USP program, USW arranged for procurement and shipping of three containers of HRS and SRW wheat for the milling school. Over the next few months, USW will lead many promotional and training seminars to showcase U.S. wheat quality and functionality to millers and end-product manufacturers from Morocco and neighboring countries.

Philippines. USW Baking Consultant Gerry Mendoza, from the USW Manila Office, conducted a short course on Bakery Operations Management at the Filipino Chinese Bakery Association Training Center in cooperation with the Philippine Society of Baking. Mendoza focused on increasing knowledge of four key elements that every bakery owner or manager must fully understand to help increase operational efficiency and profitability: ingredients, equipment, recipes and process.

Mexico. USW Technical Specialist Marcelo Mitre, from the USW Mexico City Office, worked with USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada to conduct a series of baking seminars in Mexico City and Toluca. USW designed the seminars to help bakeries adapt to growing demand and requirements for tastier and healthier bread products, which supports consumption growth. Management for both bakeries confirmed their interest in launching some variations of these products in selected stores, as they realize there is a market for the quality end-products demonstrated in the seminars.

Jamaica. Technical Specialist Mitre worked with USW Baking Consultant Bernard Bruinsma to conduct two baking seminars in Kingston. The seminars focused on the entire baking process and allowed participants to test how their practices affect the quality of the end-product.

Ecuador. The USW Santiago Office and USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada worked with bakery personnel in Quito, Ecuador. Rosada demonstrated using U.S. wheat flour blends to make par-baked bread that can be frozen and distributed. He also helped formulate new baked goods that will appeal to consumers and identify appropriate U.S. wheat flour blends for existing and newly formulated products.

Indonesia. USW Regional Vice President Matt Weimar, and Assistant Regional Vice President Joe Sowers, both from the South Asia region, traveled to Jakarta to meet with key members of the wheat foods industry, including procurement managers and decision makers at key flour mills. Discussions focused on world and U.S. market analysis and quality information and learning more about the Indonesian market and its wheat quality needs.

China. USW and the Wuxi Buhler Company conducted a week-long milling seminar at the Wuxi Buhler Milling Training Center for millers. Together, USW Technical Director Peter Lloyd, from the USW Casablanca Office, and Buhler Milling Technician Vincent Shao focused on flour milling technology, wheat cleaning and tempering equipment, mill maintenance and management, laboratory testing and the solvent retention capacity (SRC) method of flour performance testing. The participants have the opportunity to further practice milling HRW wheat at Buhler’s test flour mill.

Taiwan. USW cooperated with the De Lin Institute of Technology to host a noodle cooking seminar for nutritionists and cooks from school lunch centers and catering companies in New Taipei City. The seminar participants designed 12 noodle meal packages, two kinds of steamed breads and one Chinese pastry for school lunch programs. This experience demonstrated different flour performance for making healthy Chinese foods.

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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 processed wheat flour, maize meal and cooking oils, while creating jobs for the Angolan people, lowering consumer food expenses 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.

“U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) introduced HRW wheat to Angolan milling companies in 1993 through the USDA PL 480 Title 1 monetization program,” said Ed Wiese, USW Regional Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa. “The industry processed many thousands of MT of HRW every year until 2001 when the Title 1 program ended. And Angolan bakers told me they very much liked the quality of the HRW flour to make baguettes and Portuguese-style bread.”

When monetized U.S. HRW was no longer available, 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 hired a part-time consultant to provide timely and accurate information about U.S. HRW to Angolan flour millers, bakers, grain traders and government officials. Funding for this trade service comes from USW’s partnership with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs.

In 2016, Wiese met with representatives of an Angolan flour mill that plans to expand its capacity beginning in 2017. Wiese proposed a way to demonstrate the value and utility of U.S. HRW to that mill’s staff and customers. Under the USDA/FAS Quality Samples Program (QSP), USW arranged for 100 MT of HRW from the state of Kansas to be shipped to the Perdue export terminal in Norfolk, VA, loaded into five shipping containers and ultimately delivered to the mill in late January 2017.

A separate QSP shipment of U.S. HRW flour recently arrived at an Angola food processing company, intended to demonstrate the usefulness of HRW in pasta production. The current U.S. Ambassador to Angola, Helena M. La Lime, and representatives from USW and the North American Millers’ Association celebrated the arrival of this shipment in a ceremony at the processing company on Feb. 28. Africa Today reported that 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.”

“I believe U.S. wheat farmers would be proud to know that their wheat has the potential to help improve economic conditions in Angola,” said Wiese. “Through trade service, technical support and training, 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.”

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As USW Vice President of Overseas Operations 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 just some of the ways USW was working in January and February to promote all six classes of U.S. wheat in an ever more complex world grain market.

Egypt. USW Regional Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Ian Flagg attended a meeting with officials from the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) in Cairo, Egypt, to introduce USW and discuss the advantages of U.S. wheat in the government’s food procurement activities.

Haiti. USW Consultant Dr. Rebecca Regan and USW Mexico City Office Technical Specialist Marcelo Mitre traveled to Haiti to conduct laboratory equipment training for staff at a local flour mill. The training included helping the mill staff consider how to match rheological and baking tests to specifications for their flour and semolina production.

Taiwan. USW cooperated with the Department of Health of Taipei City Government and Taipei Bakery Association (TBA) to conduct a promotional activity providing healthy bakery products prepared by 20 bakeries to more than 5,000 school children from 46 primary schools. The holiday bakery products focus on healthy ingredients to introduce school children to better dietary choices and to promote healthy bakery products using U.S. wheat.

Mexico. In February, USW Mexico City regional office staff had a series of meetings with the Mexican National Bakers’ Association (CANAINPA) to discuss how USW can collaborate with the Mexican baking industry in the future. CANAINPA recently modernized its baking school, with equipment provided by the Mexican baking industry.

Israel. Regional Vice President Ian Flagg and Regional Marketing Director Rutger Koekoek traveled to Israel to conduct a Crop Quality Seminar for the Israeli milling industry, grain trade and officials. They provided information about HRW crop quality and the most recent supply and demand estimates and other market insights. The event was organized together with the Manufacturers Association of Israel, which hosted the event including the meeting room and coffee break. The twenty participants included employees of five different milling companies representing eighty percent of the total annual Israeli milling volume.

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The Pacific Northwest (PNW) grain chain and U.S. wheat importers are aware that the Columbia Snake River System (CSRS) will close for extended maintenance beginning Dec. 12, 2016, and ending March 20, 2017. This will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make essential renovations to all the navigation locks on the Columbia River and the Snake River. No barge traffic will be able to pass during this time.

U.S. Wheat Associate (USW) welcomes this investment as a critical part of our country’s long-term position as the world’s most reliable supplier to our customers. USW and supply chain participants take any customer concerns about supply, cost impact and logistical options seriously and is working with customers to help them minimize any possible impact before, during, and after the river system closure.

Such extended closures are unusual but, as our overseas customers learned during the last extended closure in 2010/11, the entire PNW system is fully capable of ensuring an uninterrupted supply of wheat to export terminals.

USW believes the industry will consider every logistical option to keep wheat, especially soft white (SW) wheat, flowing to export elevators. Significant changes will help make this closure more manageable. For example, total export terminal storage capacity on the Columbia River has grown substantially since 2011. The addition of an entirely new terminal, plus the construction of new storage at several others, has increased storage capacity from 564,000 metric tons (MT) to 866,000 MT today. The PNW’s total up-country grain storage capacity has also grown to 17.3 million MT from 16.4 MMT.

Rail shipments made up 54 percent of SW sourced by rail during the outage in 2010/11. Rail shipping will likely make up most of the barge capacity shortfall during this closure as well. An estimated 80 percent of hard red winter and 90 percent of hard red spring exported from the PNW are already sourced by rail. For SW to move west, rail sourcing will have to increase as much as 25 percent (see chart below). Fortunately, railroads have been investing in capacity and there are now four shuttle train loading terminals in eastern Washington, compared to two that were operational in 2010/11. The system is even better prepared to meet demand in 2016/17.

Knowing the CSRS will be closed during the upgrade, exporters, grain originators, barge operators, railroads, and trucking lines are already planning to minimize interruptions and costs. Alternatives include:

  • Pre-positioning the maximum number of barges to load SW before the closing (the Bonneville Lock and Dam should re-open after 8 weeks, which would open facilities up river to The Dalles, about 307 km east of Portland);
  • Moving more rail cars and locomotives into the region to handle increased demand from rail-loading interior elevators;
  • Coordinating truck and rail delivery from the Willamette Valley, south of Portland.
  • Buyers can help themselves by preparing for the maintenance period. USW believes there will be sufficient volume of all U.S. wheat classes normally available from the PNW. Buyers can also help lower the risk of interruption and minimize potential costs by taking a longer view of their purchase needs.

USW is advising its customers to consider:

  • Consulting with PNW exporters as early as possible to help give exporters more time to respond to your needs and to manage their logistical challenges.
  • Scheduling a meeting soon with the local USW representative to identify buying strategies that fit specific needs and capabilities;
  • Analyzing inventory needs and logistical capabilities;
  • Increasing SW wheat and/or flour storage;
  • Increasing SW purchase cadence in the harvest and immediate post-harvest period (July – November) before the closure;
  • Deferring as an offset some hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) shipments from the immediate post-harvest period into the maintenance period.

As an objective voice for U.S. wheat producers, USW greatly values the trust customers have in its products and service and remains fixed on helping buyers, millers, and wheat food processors learn how to grow their enterprises using U.S. wheat. The organization believes that, working together, the industry and customers will see wheat trade continue to flow.

About the Columbia Snake River System. The CSRS is a vital transportation link for wheat producers in the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The economies of these four states rely heavily on the commerce that flows up and down this system. The CSRS is the #1 U.S. wheat export gateway. The deep draft channel supports 46 million tons of cargo each year, valued at $20 billion. The inland system supports more than 9 million tons of cargo.

For more information, visit the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association online at www.pnwa.net.