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U.S. Wheat Mexico Office Uses Innovation and Technology to Provide Service and Technical Assistance to Region’s Wheat Buyers

By: USW Mexico Staff, edited by NDWC
Posted: Oct 08 2020

The USW/Mexico office, which is based in Mexico City, Mexico, covers nearly 40 countries ranging from Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.  Although many of these countries individually are relatively small to medium size, they collectively represent a region in the world that consistently ranks as one of the top importers globally of U.S. wheat exports.  The region buys all six classes of U.S. wheat, and is the largest global importer of HRW and SRW wheats, as well as being typically a top 10 buyer of HRS and U.S. durum.

With the onset of COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020, it became obvious that it would not be “business as usual” and that USW would need to shift its strategies and use a combination of innovation, technology, flexibility and adaptability to continue to provide value to its key customers in the area.  USW devised a system of using webinars to provide trade servicing and technical service to wheat millers, buyers and wheat foods manufacturers.  The USW/Mexico staff has been able to provide exporting marketing, trade servicing, and technical assistance to wheat importers in Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad-Tobago, Barbados, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama during the April-September 2020 period.

During this period there has been a wide array of USW programs implemented throughout the region. Some specific examples include:
  •  A U.S. Transportation Study on U.S. rail rates to Mexico involving NDSU Economist Dr. William Wilson
  •  USW harvest updates conducted in English and Spanish
  •  “Getting the Wheat You Want” Seminars in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, and Trinidad-Tobago
  •  A virtual Mexican Trade Mission involving a leading wheat buyer in Guadalajara, Mexico
  •  Wheat procurement seminars focusing on Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad-Tobago
  •  A customized virtual grain procurement short course held for a wheat importer in Jamaica
  •  Specialized baking seminars for a growing and expanding bakery based in Guatemala that also owns bakeries in other Central American countries

The programs have been well received.  In the case of USW’s marketing programs, from April-September 2020, the combination of customized trade servicing, procurement, logistics, marketing and inspection seminars has attracted 230 participants from 108 flour mills throughout the region.  Additionally, there have been 124 participants including executives from mills and 15 wheat foods manufacturers, including bakeries, cookie and cracker manufacturers, and pasta factories reached in meetings with USW.

Using webinar technology available to USW has resulted in some positive developments including the ability to reach a larger number of participants and provide both marketing and technical assistance programs to customized milling and wheat foods manufacturing companies in the region.  The positive aspects of this approach include a lot of interaction, questions, and involvement, especially when the sessions are held for key companies in the region. For example, on the USW Getting the Wheat You Want seminars, it is easy to measure if a company’s wheat import division revises its wheat purchasing specifications, and if so how and when.  The impact is easily measurable and visible.

The economies of scale in conducting these programs are evident but the disadvantage of this approach is that there is no substitute for personal trade servicing visits.  In person visits allow trouble shooting and hands on expertise in which USW staff or consultants can actually get their hands in the dough and clearly demonstrate the value of using U.S. wheat in their product formulation.  

The personnel at the North Dakota Wheat Commission and North Dakota State University Professors, in particular, have served as valuable resources and consultants for USW in providing market information and transportation economics, logistics, and quality expertise to wheat buyers in the USW/Mexico region.  Dr. Frayne Olson at NDSU has become more and more involved in providing expertise to Mexican and Caribbean wheat importers through a variety of marketing programs offered in particular in 2019 and 2020. He has done a highly effective job in explaining key market factors and risk management principles to five mills in the region.

With a growing population, increasing two-income families, greater urbanization, and consumers constantly looking for healthy and convenient ways to prepare and eat foods, the USW/Mexico region offers expanded opportunities for increased U.S. wheat exports in Latin America and the Caribbean in the future.

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