In-Person Trade Teams Reconnect Customers and Producers
By: Erica Olson
Posted: Nov 15 2022
In person trade team visits have been a part of the market development process for decades. The teams, generally organized by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), bring customers directly to wheat production regions to see the U.S. wheat marketing system in person. Team members have the opportunity to see and learn about anything and everything – from planting, harvesting and other production processes to wheat breeding, procurement and quality analysis, to elevator visits and discussion on logistics. Perhaps most important are the personal connections made with those involved in the development, production and research of wheat, with direct conversations with wheat producers a highlight of these visits. The last trade team visit for the North Dakota Wheat Commission was the summer of 2019 before a three-year hiatus. The summer and fall of 2022 saw various teams visiting, bringing that key personal component back with in-person meetings and visits.
In mid-July, a group from Egypt, Oman, Morocco and Algeria visited the state as part of a Young Millers Team. This team was composed of future decision makers in family owned companies, preparing to take over from their parents in the very near future and eventually become the key decision makers. The goal of this team was to introduce them to the U.S. wheat marketing system and help build strong business relationships and make key contacts in the U.S. Members of this team purchase some spring wheat and durum. Algeria and Morocco are typically in the top five durum export markets and Egypt has been purchasing spring wheat for higher quality wheat products.
A South Asian Bakery team visited the state in September, representing the Philippines and Thailand – two top ten spring wheat export markets. This team was fairly unique as it was composed entirely of baking companies. Oftentimes the teams are composed of millers, traders and others in the industry. The goal of this team was to help them gain a better understanding of the U.S. wheat production and marketing systems and how various factors impact the price and quality of flour they purchase for bakery products. Growth in demand for high quality food products in this region has led to strong and growing demand for flour milled from U.S. wheat. The team met with wheat quality specialists at NDSU and NCI to learn more about how certain grain, dough, and bread quality components affect the overall quality of the flour they receive and why this changes from year to year.
Rounding out the September trade team itinerary was a visit from our largest spring wheat customer – the Philippines. This policy team was organized by U.S. Wheat with the primary goal of meeting with policy makers to discuss flour anti-dumping duties which are set to expire in 2023, and gain insights on the policies and options available for further extension of the anti-dumping duties. The duties have been key to combating predatory pricing for Turkish flour and thus maintaining demand for U.S. wheat. While in North Dakota the group received updates on the 2022 crop in terms of size, availability and price, spring wheat breeding efforts, preliminary quality outlook on the 2022 crop and was able to enjoy a farm visit and tour of the NCI.
The final trade team for 2022 was a group of Japanese flour millers. Japan is consistently the second largest customer of U.S. spring wheat and an extremely quality conscious buyer. This was the first trip to the U.S. for most the group and they enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the spring wheat production region and receive a glimpse of the quality of the 2022 crops. Even though the spring wheat harvest was complete by the time the group visited the state, they still had an opportunity to visit a farm and see soybean harvest first hand.
Throughout all of the trade team visits, NDWC producer board members were able to be with the group, from farm visits to dinner events. Connecting the team members directly with producers is a key component of doing business and being able to do this in-person again was priceless. Jim Pellman, NDWC Vice Chairman, met with some of the teams and found the exchange of information extremely useful. “Meeting our customers in person was a great opportunity. We learn from each other. Producers gain an understanding of the quality needs of customers and our customers gain an understanding of how wheat production works on our end,” Pellman said. “It was a great opportunity to meet so many of our customers and I look forward to meeting more in the future.”
Thank you to U.S. Wheat Associates for organizing the teams and for everyone at NDSU and NCI for their participation!