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Southeast Asia Marketing Conference Recap

By: Erica Olson
Posted: Jun 19 2023

The South and Southeast Asian region is important for U.S. wheat, accounting for nearly one-fourth of total export demand.  That amount is much higher when looking specifically at HRS, with the region accounting for nearly 40% of U.S. HRS exports on average.  The Philippines has been the largest HRS market for nearly a decade, averaging nearly 60 million bushels.  Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are also sizeable markets for HRS.  Interacting with customers from this region is important to maintaining and building relationships for continued export market success.

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) South and Southeast Asian Marketing Conference held in mid-May was a key tool to bring together customers, producers, staff and others in the industry. This was the first such conference in that region since 2012 and the conference theme, “Building Prosperity Through Partnership,” and presentations reminded customers that USW is committed to being a steadfast partner in both challenging and stable times. The program provided perspective on geopolitical and market forces shaping the regional wheat food industry, an early look at the 2023 U.S. wheat crop, and reports from millers in several South and Southeast Asian countries.

“It was great to have everyone back together again,” said Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice President. “Our regional milling and baking customers are dealing with a lot of uncertainty and market volatility and the pandemic limited our direct service work for a long time, so this is another way for us to demonstrate our commitment to them and why U.S. wheat remains important to their businesses.”

Recent years have been challenging for all in the wheat industry with economic challenges and uncertainties, geopolitical issues, logistical challenges, drought in wheat producing countries and strong export competition all affecting wheat and end product demand.  Despite that, most at the conference had a positive view of U.S. wheat.  Erica Olson, Market Development and Research Manager for the ND Wheat Commission attended the conference and provided an update on the potential 2023 HRS crop and market factors affecting cropping choices.  “We know that HRS exports have struggled a bit the past couple of years.  We aren’t quite as price competitive as some other countries and demand in general has slipped as consumers pull back on spending as high wheat prices have increased the cost of food.  Also, Australia has had two back to back record crops which has cut into some of our market share.  Despite that, U.S. HRS is still coveted as a quality, reliable wheat and we still maintain strong export market share in many of these countries,” Olson said.  While the region is generally a quality-based market, it is also quite price sensitive.

Despite the challenges, U.S. wheat maintains a substantial market share in many of those markets. In the Philippines, our market share is still at 80% and we remain a primary supplier of wheat to Thailand.  Competition is fiercer in the Indonesian market where Australia is the main supplier, U.S. share in recent years has been 4-5%.  Overall, customers indicate a preference for U.S. wheat and outlook for demand is promising if production and price levels are conducive to exports.

One of the most important aspects of the conference was the opportunity to network.  “The energy and enthusiasm of the nearly 200 participants were evident throughout the conference.  With COVID preventing travel and in person visits for years, everyone seemed to relish the opportunity to catch up.  Many of the customers at this conference have been to North Dakota before, it was a wonderful opportunity to provide up to date information on HRS and other topics and stress the dedication of U.S. wheat producers to provide a quality product,” says Olson.  

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