Earlier this month, flour mill executives, grain procurement managers, and representatives of state trading companies from 19 countries (photo above) traveled to Fargo, N.D., sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) to participate in the Grain Procurement Short Course for Importers at the Northern Crops Institute (NCI).
USW and NCI believe customer engagement, supply chain transparency, and accessible global market information are the building blocks for mutually profitable relationships with U.S. wheat customers. To promote engagement and transparency, USW partners with NCI at North Dakota State University (NDSU) annually to offer the Grain Procurement Short Course for Importers. The course’s primary focus is customer education on wheat procurement strategies, risk management, and navigating the U.S. supply chain.
An Emphasis on Information and Data
The ten-day session began in the classroom led by industry-leading experts at NDSU including Dr. Bill Wilson, Dr. Frayne Olson, and Dr. David Bullock. The lectures provided a durable foundation of traditional agricultural fundamentals, cash and futures markets, technical analysis, and risk management tools such as hedging and options.
From there, other coursework built upon the foundational knowledge with advanced sessions on risk management, U.S. wheat quality and value, rail logistics, and experiential learning in the NDSU Commodity Trading Lab.
Moreover, a common theme throughout the course was the importance of data analytics and information in the marketplace. Drs. Wilson and Olson highlighted various sources of information that are useful and relevant for customers, including the U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report, the USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, and the USDA AMS Market Reports, among others. They stressed that as the industry continues to evolve, customers need a range of information sources and improved data analysis methods to understand market movements and trends.
Firsthand Experience Facilitates Transparency
The latter half of the course included tours providing an in-depth look into U.S. supply chain infrastructure and grain marketing system.
Course participants toured the NDSU variety trial plots, up-country shuttle train loading facilities, and a domestic flour mill, contributing to a better understanding of the U.S. domestic market. The team then went to Duluth, Minn., to observe the U.S. export infrastructure in the Port of Duluth-Superior, including assets owned by CHS and Hansen-Mueller, to complete the U.S. supply chain overview.
Touring U.S. supply chain infrastructure provides a unique opportunity for customers to see first-hand how grain moves from farm fields to the elevator in Duluth, demonstrating the reliability, effectiveness, and transparency of the U.S. supply chain.
Building Lasting Relationships
Finally, the course concluded with meetings at grain exporting companies in Minneapolis, Minn., including major exporters such as CHS, Cargill, and ADM. These meetings with traders provided the opportunity to build relationships and gain additional familiarity with the U.S. grain marketing system.
Upon conclusion of the course, participants left with a greater understanding of the U.S. marketing system and supply chain management strategies. One participant from sub-Saharan Africa commented, “This course not only deepened our understanding of grain procurement and guided us on how to make more effective wheat purchases with minimum risk, but also provided an invaluable platform for sharing of experience with the experts and among participants, especially those already importing U.S. wheat.”
Most importantly, the program provided the participants with a network of experts and professionals in the grain procurement and flour milling industry from around the world, fostering a spirit of collaboration and information sharing. And that is crucial to encouraging transparency and forming long-term partnerships between customers, sellers, and USW.
By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford