A team of farmers and state wheat commissioners is in the initial stages of a visit to three crucial Asian markets to represent the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors, meet with customers of U.S. wheat and learn about changing consumer trends.

The 2023 USW North Asia Board Team arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday, Feb. 28. It will eventually move on to Japan and South Korea before returning to the United States March 10.

On the trip are Bob Delsing, of the Nebraska Wheat Board (NWB); Bill Flory, of the Idaho Wheat Commission (IWC); Keven Bradley, of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee (MWBC); and Kent Kupfner, Executive Vice President of MWBC.

USW colleagues in Manila, Tokyo and Seoul have scheduled several meetings for the team with flour milling companies and bakers in each country. Other highlights of the trip include attending the prestigious FCBCi Bakery Fair in Manila, sessions with the Japan Flour Millers Association and U.S. Embassy Agricultural Affairs officials in Tokyo, and discussions with members of the Korea Flour Millers Industrial Association in Seoul.

The USW Board Team members recognize the importance of the three markets to U.S. wheat farmers.

Pride in Representing Farmers

“To be able to meet with millers and bakers and see how our wheat is being milled and blended to meet each baker’s satisfaction is special, and it’s a real honor to represent Nebraska and U.S. wheat,” said Delsing, who serves on USW’s Long Range Planning Committee and grows hard red winter (HRW) wheat on his family’s farm in northwestern Nebraska. “The Philippines, Japan and South Korea are among our largest customers, so meeting them face-to-face and getting their input and thoughts on the wheat we grow will be very valuable.”

Kupfner, a former wheat trader and grain company manager, is eager to get to know USW staff working in each of the markets. He also has a long list of questions for buyers and millers about things that can help U.S. wheat earn an even larger share in the markets.

“In the Philippines, for example, I’m interested in gaining insight into the specific end-products made with U.S. wheat and learn how we can increase use of wheat moved from the Pacific Northwest, especially hard red spring wheat,” said Kupfner. “In Japan, I want to understand cultural changes and see if there is more opportunity for U.S. wheat? Korea imports U.S. hard red spring, hard red winter and soft white, but there is competition from Canada and Australia, so I want to explore what we can do to maintain and grow our share of that market.”

Returning the Favor

Flory, a member of the USW Board of Directors and current Chair of the Wheat Marketing Center board, expects the team to make a compelling case that customers drive decisions of the farmers who grow wheat.

“In a highly competitive world, the U.S. producer needs to have an understanding of and relationship with the customer,” explained Flory. “We do this by inviting them to our farms, universities, and shipping ports. And we reciprocate by visiting them at their mills and bakeries.”

Following is a short video from the USW Board Team’s first stop in Manila, Philippines.

Stay tuned for regular updates from the 2023 USW North Asia Board Team.

By USW Director of Communications Ralph Loos