A group of Korean wheat officials walked the wheat fields of Oregon and Montana in June, getting a firsthand look at the quality of western crops for potential import.
The Pacific Northwest visit, an annual event for the Korea Crop Survey Team, was viewed as an opportunity for PNW producers to assure Korean buyers that genetically modified herbicide resistant wheat found as volunteer plants in some Oregon fields were only a fluke.
The timing of the visit, scheduled prior to the May 29 USDA confirmation of the volunteer resistant wheat finds, was a "great opportunity to reinforce the safety, quality and reliability of the U.S. wheat on which South Korea's millers, bakers and food processors have come to rely, notes U.S. Wheat Associates Woojoon Park, senior USW marketing specialist in Seoul, Korea.
Three Korean representatives from South Korea's biggest flour mills – Daehan Flour Mills, DongA One Corp., and Daesun Flour Mills Company – took part in the tour along with Park and Kent Pattison, Montana Wheat & Barley Committee marketing official.
"We appreciate the opportunity to bring together our Korean customers with the farmers who are dedicated to growing the highest quality wheat possible each year," says Park. The team visited with officials representing wheat research in the two states, as well as marketing and transportation spokespersons to address questions from the visitors.
Korea has temporarily suspended purchases of U.S. wheat pending official decisions form Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
The U.S. supplies about 40% of Korea's wheat imports, competing with Canada and Australia in the market. In the 2012-13 marketing year, South Koreans imported nearly 52 million bushels of U.S. wheat.
U.S. market share in Korea has ranged to as high as 63%, yet U.S. wheat farmers face tough historical competition in this large market from other nations.