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Filipino millers tour U.S. wheat industry

Matthew Weaver
Wheat flour millers from the Philippines are touring soft white wheat, hard red spring and hard red winter wheat production regions in the United States. The country is a key importer of U.S. Wheat, and industry officials hope to show the care that goes into providing them with the products they seek.

The United States wheat industry is showing a group of Filipino millers every aspect of the wheat supply chain to maintain support from a key exporter.

U.S. Wheat Associates is hosting five milling industry customers from the Philippines as they tour soft white, hard red spring and hard red winter production regions, including Portland and Eastern Washington.

The tour runs Aug. 6-16.

Steve Mercer, vice president of communications for U.S. Wheat, said the tour participants represent an emerging group of new executives in the Philippines.

Wheat flour consumption in the Philippines has been steady over the years, Mercer said. Economic growth and an increase in population has boosted demand for wheat foods, a rise similar to other countries in South Asia.

Two new mills recently opened in the Philippines, which means new managers need a better understanding of the U.S wheat quality and delivery system, Mercer said. That includes how it can increase the value of the wheat they’re importing and get the most quality.

The millers will visit with farmers, grain handlers, private exporters, Washington State University wheat breeders and tour terminal elevators, grain inspection, and barges.

“We want them to see the supply chain field to vessel, so they get a feel for all of the different elements that go into providing them the quality product they expect,” said Blake Rowe, Oregon Wheat CEO. “We want them to see what care the farmers take, how the wheat is handled, inspected and loaded. It’s not just a product that shows up on the dock, it has tremendous care given to it from the farm to the end-user.”

Mercer wants to build the millers’ confidence,, particularly that they’re getting the information needed to specify for the right types of wheat.

“We’re rarely the least expensive wheat, so we have to demonstrate our system and help them use it in a way that gets the most value,” he said.

“Every time you spend time with a foreign customer, you learn something about what they need, how they operate,” Rowe said. “Any time you sit down with a top-five customer for soft white wheat, it’s a good thing to do.”

According to U.S. Wheat Associates, the Philippines is the fifth-largest market for U.S. wheat.

The United States has roughly 93 percent of the milling wheat import market in the Philippines, Mercer said. Trade teams to the United States are fairly regular on an annual base. U.S. Wheat Associates has represented wheat growers in the Philippines market for more than 50 years.

The Philippines uses U.S. wheat for pan bread products, the bun-like product tinoy and for growing interest in fast food products, Mercer said.

“Our quality tends to be very beneficial for those uses,” he said.

U.S. Wheat exports to the Philippines average 2.2 million metric tons each year. The 2013-2014 marketing year saw record amounts of soft white and hard red spring wheat to the Philippines, according to U.S. Wheat.

U.S. Wheat supported Filipino millers as they worked to combat Turkish flour sold at prices well below the cost of importing in the Philippines. The Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc., said local flour could not compete with Turkish flour dumped into the market, and petitioned the Republic of the Philippines government for an anti-dumping duty, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.

“Not only does it harm the Philippines millers, it also substitutes for wheat imports from the United States,” Rowe said. “We don’t mind competing, but it’s pretty hard when the flour you’re competing against is pretty heavily subsidized by the Turkish government.”

Mercer said the Filipino government will soon hold a hearing to determine whether temporary anti-dumping duties on Turkish flour will be made permanent.





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