African Flour Millers Assess U.S. Wheat Quality and Trade Opportunities

Posted June 17, 2016

Reliable ingredient sourcing and supply are key to any market functioning successfully. For 15 years, Nigerian millers have traveled to the United States to take stock of their primary supply of HRW wheat. This year, two milling executives from South Africa and Ghana joined three Nigerians on a team that traveled to Kansas June 15-19, 2016, to assess trade opportunities and U.S. wheat quality. The team also visited Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota.

“The milling industries in these countries rely on an uninterrupted supply of quality wheat,” said Gerald Theus, USW regional assistant director for Sub-Saharan Africa in the regional Cape Town, South Africa office. “In competitive markets where we face new challenges, there is nothing more valuable than connecting these participants directly with the farmers and other members of the supply chain.”

In marketing year 2015/16 (June to May), Nigeria was once again one of the largest buyers of all U.S. wheat classes and is the dominant buyer in USW’s Sub-Saharan Africa region having imported more than 1 million metric tons (MMT) of hard red winter (HRW). The market development activities in Nigeria provide a foundation for other nearby countries including Ghana. South Africa is a steady importer with good potential.

“This team represents major milling groups in each of their respective countries,” said Theus. “Mills throughout Africa appreciate the high milling quality characteristics of U.S. wheat and its superior baking aspects.”

Bringing these buyers to see Kansas wheat quality and to discuss ways to keep their importing costs down is a very important activity during a time of very aggressive competition. While in Manhattan, Kansas, the team learned about wheat research at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, toured the Center for Grain and Animal Health Research, IGP Institute and Hal Ross flour mill, and heard from Jay O’Neal on global supply and demand and transportation outlook. The team then traveled to central Kansas to visit the Bartlett Grain Company Train Loading Facility and witness Kansas wheat harvest at the farm of Doug Keesling.

Nigeria is a success story for the U.S. wheat industry. After a six-year wheat ban ended in 1992, Nigeria imported nearly 350,000 MT (12.86 million bushels) of U.S. wheat. Since then, the United States has re-established itself as the major supplier of wheat to the Nigerian milling industry.

Nigerian wheat consumption continues to rise rapidly. More and more Nigerians are looking for a nutritious, convenient food and they are finding it in the fastest growing product segment — instant noodles made primarily from HRW. Today, Nigeria is behind only countries in Southeast Asia in per capita consumption and nearly every milling company is manufacturing instant noodles, even though they first appeared on the market less than a decade ago.

The United States dominates Nigeria’s wheat import market, despite a decrease in market share and increased price competition from other suppliers, including Canada, Australia and the Black Sea region. USW's in-country service office in Lagos and a commitment to technical training and exchanges have combined to build strong Nigerian loyalty to U.S.-origin wheat. Yet, Nigeria continues to have tremendous untapped potential for increased milling capacity, including for Nigerian flour exports to other West African markets like Ghana.