Milling School Adds Value to U.S. Wheat

Growers help fund educational tool in Casablanca. Bill Spiegel

Published on: Jun 2, 2005

At the end of the classic movie, Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart says to his sidekick, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Bogey wasn’t talking about the U.S. Wheat Associates’ sponsorship of the Moroccan Milling School, but he could have been. The school, which opened its doors in Casablanca in 1994, has graduated more than 100 millers to good jobs in Morocco’s huge milling industry.

"Some of our alums have achieved high positions and are moving to management," says director Mahjoub Sahaba.

The School is a joint venture of the U.S. Wheat Associates and the Moroccan Millers Federation. It not only gives the 25 graduates each year an opportunity for a good career in this developing country, it teaches students how wheat classifications from the United States can be blended with those of other countries to make high-quality products.

"The school teaches about differentiation in wheat classifications," says George Galasso, regional vice president of U.S. Wheat based in Rotterdam, New Holland. "We encourage customers to buy hard red wheat and spring wheat for blending."

These wheats, Galasso adds, are high-quality and thus, expensive. However, they can be blended with lower-quality and less expensive wheat classes from other countries. The result is a higher quality product than Moroccans have used in the past, at a competitive price. And, the key ingredient creates a market for U.S. wheat – 200,000 tons of hard red winter wheat alone in 2004.

The school’s graduates are sought after by mills in other African and Middle East nations. "The school exports a number of millers. They are millers of choice because they have been educated. These graduates know about U.S. wheat, so when they get to other mills, there are ancillary benefits," says Abdellatif Izem, director of the Moroccan Millers Federation.

U.S. Wheat Associates – funded in part by state wheat checkoff money and the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service – contributed $3 million initial investment to get the mill and school built in the early 90s. The USWA continues to support the school with periodic donations of money and/or equipment. The benefits have far outweighed the cost, Galasso says. "We’ve received tens of millions of dollars in return for that initial investment."

Spiegel is joined by other journalists and U.S. Wheat Associates administration on a Kansas Wheat Commission-sponsored tour of Morocco, Italy and Nigeria from May 29-June 8.