Posted August 4, 2022
Farmers aren’t the only ones who keep a close eye on Mother Nature’s shenanigans during the growing season. Around the world, grain buyers, millers and bakers track the progress of the U.S. wheat crop, eagerly awaiting the quantity and quality of each year’s harvest. Moving past the headlines and putting these critical customers in direct contact with the U.S. wheat industry is the job of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) - the industry’s export market development organization.
To do so, USW invests funding from USDA Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs to bring trade teams of overseas customers and stakeholders to the United States each year. These visits provide important selling points in a world marketplace where Kansas wheat producers compete against their counterparts in Canada, Argentina, Australia and the Black Sea.
“While harvest results differ from county-to-county and state-to-state, America’s hard-working farm families produce enough wheat every year to fill our tables while still supplying world wheat trade,” said Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat. “Coordinating local visits connect our customers with the dependable folks who work to provide the right kind of wheat for their specific end-use needs.”
On the heels of a team of next-generation flour millers and commodity buyers from the Middle East and North Africa, Kansas Wheat recently hosted a team of senior managers and wheat buyers from five Colombian flour mills and the leader of Fedemol, the Colombian milling and wheat food industries association. Over nine days, these customers also visited Washington state and Ohio.The team had a busy day in Kansas on Friday, July 29. At the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, the team received an overview of the Kansas wheat industry and an HRW crop update before touring the facility. The team also had a briefing by the neighboring IGP Institute.
After lunch, the team traveled to Salina to tour the Cargill terminal elevator and the Kansas Grain Inspection Service station. Back in Manhattan, the team also visited Engrain, which provides innovations in milling and baking that improve bread volume, optimize pasta texture and enrich baked goods.
The in-person visit to Kansas and other wheat states reinforces the reliable reputation of U.S. wheat and helps maintain exports to this important customer. Colombia is currently the largest destination for U.S. wheat in South America. The United States enjoyed a 30% market share in the 2021 calendar year at nearly 20.14 million bushels (548,000 metric tons), up from 22% the prior year. Colombia imports U.S. wheat through ports on the Gulf of Mexico that receive U.S. HRW and SRW and ports on the Pacific Ocean that receive U.S. SW wheat.
Within Colombia, wheat is not a profitable crop, driven by climate. Most wheat farms are located in the southern part of the country and do not exceed four acres. As a result, average wheat production over the last 10 years is less than about 14.7 bushels (400,000 metric tons). Less than half of this locally grown wheat is purchased by the milling industry with the majority of domestic production consumed directly in rural areas.
However, Colombians do enjoy their wheat foods. In the 2021 calendar year, Colombian wheat consumption totaled 62.24 million bushels (1.83 million metric tons). The majority of that wheat – 76% - was consumed as bread or pastries, above the Latin American average of 69%. Cookie and cracker consumption made up 9.5% and 14.5% was consumed as pasta.
And this market still has room to grow. Colombian per capita wheat and bread consumption remain the lowest in South America, about half that of neighboring countries. For example, bread consumption was 56 pounds per capita per year, compared to 215 pounds in Chile.
This combination of growth opportunities, favorable importing logistics and increasing market share make teams like this one from Colombia an important activity for Kansas Wheat and other state wheat commissions to work with USW to showcase the reliability, quality and value of the wheat grown here in the Heartland every year.
Learn more about the different trade teams USW has organized this summer at https://www.uswheat.org/wheatletter/u-s-wheat-customer-trade-teams-are-back/.