Trade Visit Demonstrates U.S. Wheat Competitive Advantages to Venezuelan Millers

Posted July 29, 2016

Quality control and purchasing managers from three Venezuelan flour mills will visit North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Ohio on July 31 to August 6, 2016, to learn more about the value of working with the U.S. wheat supply chain. With funding from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is sponsoring this trade team in cooperation with the North Dakota Wheat Commission, Nebraska Wheat Board, Kansas Wheat Commission and Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program.

Chad Weigand, USW Assistant Regional Director for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, said U.S. wheat exports to Venezuela are not as strong as they once were, in part because increased government intervention and limited access to U.S. dollars have forced millers there to make cost a primary buying decision.

Participants on this team represent some of the largest mills in Venezuela, but they do not have significant knowledge of U.S. wheat quality, its marketing system or federal inspection services.

With the advantage of proximity to U.S. Gulf ports, Venezuela was a relatively stable buyer of U.S. wheat for many years. In fact, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) helped establish ESLAMO, The Latin American Flour Milling School. In recent years, the deteriorating political climate and economy and the resulting challenges of providing trade service and technical support have eroded U.S. wheat’s share of Venezuela’s market. Yet the customers there still represent a good market with potential to grow should the country stabilize. The pivotal question became how to stay engaged with them.

“With key decision makers like these, we have to demonstrate why performance and value is worth more, but it is very difficult for our staff to conduct activities in Venezuela,” said Weigand. “By coordinating with our state wheat commissions, however, we can bring these customers to the United States to see our production and export system at work. That first-hand experience will help increase their confidence in U.S. wheat.”

Kansas stops for the team include observing advanced wheat research and breeding methods at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. In addition, participants will learn about educational programs and short courses at the IGP Institute.

“Having the Venezuelan team here is an exciting opportunity for Kansas farmers,” said Justin Gilpin, CEO of Kansas Wheat. “A little under half of the Kansas wheat crop is exported every year, so it’s vital that we maintain relationships with our customers around the world, big or small. Seeing the quality of U.S. wheat, and getting first-hand experiences with the wheat industry, creates value with these buyers which helps Kansas wheat stay competitive in the global marketplace.”

USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat producers and their customers.” USW activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. USW maintains 17 offices strategically located around the world to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six classes of U.S. wheat.