Almost 100 people from 16 countries participated in the 2018 edition of the biennial U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Latin American & Caribbean Buyers Conference July 18 to 20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Apprehension about a growing number of trade policy issues as the conference started was quickly replaced by enthusiasm for the abundance of opportunities available from the 2018 U.S. wheat harvest and USW’s tradition of service.
Change was the overall theme of this year’s conference and was apparent from the start with the introduction of the newest USW South American Region colleagues: Miguel Galdos as the next Regional Director and Andres Saturno in a new regional position as Technical Specialist. Regional Vice President Alvaro de la Fuente has announced plans to retire in October and USW recognized his 41 years of service at the conference.
USW President Vince Peterson added perspective to the theme with a presentation illustrating the changing dynamics of the global wheat trade and increased competitiveness from Russia and other non-traditional importers into the region. Mark Fowler, Vice President of Overseas Operations, then highlighted how expansion of technical service will increase value for our U.S. wheat customers in the Mexican, Central American and Caribbean region and in the South American region.
“The service we provide combines with the variety and quality of the six classes of U.S. wheat available to remain the best choice for our customers in Latin America,” said Fowler. “As the market becomes more competitive and our customers strive to differentiate their products to their customers, our ability to provide the technical service and product development assistance becomes even more vital for them and the farmers we represent.”
Galdos provided an overview of the Latin American and Caribbean baking industry while Marcelo Mitre, Technical Specialist, USW/ Mexico City, and Casey Chumrau, Marketing Manager, USW/Santiago, shared several examples of how technical support has benefitted USW buyers and wheat food processors. U.S. participants also provided a wide-ranging look at the supplies and quality of U.S. hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and durum during the conference.
Additional guest speakers included: Alejandro Daly, Executive President of ALIM, the Latin American Millers Association covering how labeling laws affect consumption; Ambassador Rubens Barbosa, President of Abitrigo, the Brazilian Millers Association, focusing on Brazil’s wheat production and national policies; Irineu J. Pedrollo, Owner of I&MP Consulting Associates, presenting on the experiences of a U.S. wheat buyer; Dr. Glenn Gaesser, Arizona State University, presenting on the nutritional challenges of a gluten-free diet; and Mara Isabel Perdomo, Broker Manager Director with Marita Freight and Trade, speaking on freight market dynamics.
In addition to the wheat buyers from milling companies at the conference, U.S. wheat producers from seven states either attended or provided financial support for the conference. USW thanks the Idaho Wheat Commission, the Oregon Wheat Commission and the Washington Grain Commission for their sponsorship and participants from the California Wheat Commission, Kansas Wheat Commission, Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, North Dakota Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Wheat Commission for their support to make the conference a continued success. Additional funding was provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
“It’s significant that the conference was held in Brazil this year because Brazil is one the world’s leading wheat importers,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin in a report on the conference by Kansas Wheat.
Dr. Romulo Lollato, Extension Wheat Specialist at Kansas State University, spoke on “The Role of Agricultural Extension on Wheat Quality: A Case Study for Hard Red Winter.”
According to Gilpin, Lollato was able to communicate to buyers about what Kansas wheat farmers are putting into their crops for both management and quality.
“Buyers have a better understanding of what goes into wheat production and management for quality,” Gilpin said. “This will help differentiate U.S. hard red winter in a competitive marketplace.”
Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations Aaron Harries saw the conference as an opportunity for customers to meet U.S. growers and discuss wheat productio
n and the business of farming, and for growers to show their appreciation to buyers and millers who buy their crops. In fact, USW Chairman Chris Kolstad, a wheat farmer from Ledger, Mont., covered “The Economics of Growing Wheat” at the conference.
“I hope that the buyers and attendees appreciate the transparency we show,” Harries said. “We fully disclose information about the crop, even in years when our wheat crop isn’t that good. I hope they come away from the conference knowing that if they seek any information or expertise, as sellers we have that readily available for them.”
USW has posted presentations from the 2018 Latin American, Caribbean and South American Buyers Conference on its website here: https://www.uswheat.org/marketing/2018-latin-american-and-caribbean-buyers-conference/.