Four executives of Columbia's major flour, cookie and pasta groups, representing 50% of that nation's wheat imports, visited Montana wheat fields earlier this month. Another delegation from Taiwan which includes four flour milling managers also looked over the state's crop this week.
The visits, sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates and the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, are considered to be strong indications of interest in purchasing wheat from the western U.S.
"The United States traditionally supplies half of Columbian wheat imports, but competition from Canada and Argentina is strong," says Osvaldo Seco, USWA assistant regional director based in Santiago, Chile.
"Seeing the U.S. grain system from the farm to export facilities helps reinforce the quality, reliability and value of U.S. wheat," he notes.
This is the first trade team visit by Columbian millers and bakers since the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement took effect in March. The U.S. traditionally supplies half of all Columbian wheat exports, but sales in the last two years fell below that level by 50% due to the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement, and duty-free imports from Argentina.
Now that U.S. wheat competes on a level playing field with grain from Canada, Argentina and other nations, activities like this trade team help USWA reintroduce the quality of wheat to buyers.
Taiwan buyers who will be visiting through today in Montana came to look at the new crop of hard red spring, hard red winter and hard white wheat fields and observe U.S. wheat quality control standards.
"Flour millers in Taiwan prefer U.S. wheat and buy an average of 80% of their total imports from American farmers," says USWA Country Manager Ronald Lu. "It is still very important for these managers to see for themselves the effort that farmers, wheat breeders and grain handlers take to produce a reliable supply of high-quality wheat for the Taiwan market," he states.