Representatives of four key flour milling companies in South Korea that control as much as 85% of the Korean flour market visited Montana in late June as part of a survey team.
U.S. Wheat Associates and the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee sponsored the tour, which also visited Oregon and California.
"Each of these team members helps affect their company's decisions on what wheat to buy, including origin, class and other quality specifications," says Woojoon Park, senior marketing specialist with U.S. Wheat in Seoul. He accompanied the team during the visit.
"Providing them with timely, first-hand information on the current wheat crop reinforces the quality, reliability and value of U.S. Wheat."
Information from the survey helps team members develop a U.S. Wheat import plan for the year. During the tour, the Korean team met with farmers, breeders and exporters in addition to surveying the current year's hard red winter, hard red spring, soft white and hard white wheat crops.
Korean team members are interested in hard white production and quality characteristics as a potential replacement for Australian Standard White.
Korean consumers play particular attention to quality of their processed foods and raw food materials. To help reinforce the safety and nutritional qualities of wheat products, the Korean Flour Mills Industrial Association produced a documentary video program this year entitled "A Story of Flour," which includes footage shot in the Pacific Northwest.
U.S. Wheat's Seoul office also coordinated with the Korea Flour Mills Industrial Association and the Korean Master Bakers Association to organize five seminars in 2011 focused on whole wheat baking in order to help Korean millers and bakers counter cultural resistance to whole grains and expand their business into this new product line.
While the U.S. maintains about a 50% market share, Canada and Australia are tough competitors for this sophisticated market. The U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, implemented last March, eliminated the duty on U.S. wheat imports. As of last month, South Korea imported 78.8 million bushels of U.S. wheat for the 2011/12 marketing year.