US Wheat Associates sees a strong growth opportunity for US wheat exports to South America. To meet the growing demand for bread, snacks and other wheat-based foods, regional flour mills are hungry for the information they need to purchase a wider range of high-quality wheat classes.
American wheat must compete with Canadian and Argentine wheat imported into Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil and other South American countries. Technical training and benchmarking to demonstrate the benefits of American wheat classes are important parts of USW’s work in the region. However, these efforts are somewhat limited as a substantial portion of the activity funding was required to cover travel costs to conduct activities in sometimes limited facilities in each country or at US educational institutions.
ATP FINANCING RESULTS AN INNOVATIVE IDEA
A potential response to this challenge came in 2019 when the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program, administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, was created to help U.S. agriculture create new export markets. As part of ATP, staff at USW’s South American regional office in Santiago, Chile came up with an innovative promotional concept to establish a regional milling, grain chemistry and bakery laboratory in cooperation with a respected university.
Due to pandemic delays and customs challenges, the USW and its project partner, the Universidad Mayor, have worked tirelessly to build a facility on the university’s campus in Santiago and equip the laboratory with a test flour mill, wheat and flour analysis instruments, and bread ovens. On December 3, 2021, USW and the university dedicated the Laboratorio De Analisis De Granos Harinas Y Panifcacion at an event attended by the Chilean Minister of Agriculture, officials from the US State Department and FAS , the rector of the university and the directors of several Chilean flour mills.
“We are very pleased to open the first such lab in this region with the Universidad Mayor,” said Miguel Galdós, United Steelworkers regional director for South America. “We know that the technical directors of South American mills today have more influence over the types of wheat their mills have to buy. USW will be able to help more of these managers understand the differential advantages of American wheat classes by conducting programs at this regional lab. At the same time, having access to consistent and reliable testing and analysis will improve production processes and help improve the quality of regional wheat-based finished products.
MORE EFFICIENT, MORE EFFICIENT
“Previously, South American millers had to send wheat samples to a trading company in Guatemala for analysis, so this lab adds a lot more efficiency in supporting regional customers,” said Mark Fowler, vice president of services. USW Global Techniques, who participated in the dedication event.
As a partner of the new lab, USW purchased and installed all the equipment using ATP funds, while Universidad Mayor built the lab and will cover fixed costs. In return, USW Santiago will share equal access with the university to the laboratory for technical support activities supporting US wheat exports to South America and will remain the laboratory’s sole private partner for 15 years.
After attending the signing event, Steelworkers vice president of overseas operations Mike Spier called the new lab a “golden opportunity” to demonstrate the competitive advantage of American wheat classes by compared to wheat of other origins.
“With travel restrictions and quarantines constantly evolving, the USW has not been able to organize in-person technical activities for several months,” Spier said. “The lab provides everything that USW Technical Specialist Andrés Saturno needs to demonstrate to his partners in Chile and other customers in the USW South America region the cooking performance. upper classes of American wheat.
AWESOME TEAM AND PROJECT
For Steelworkers President Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Oregon, the dedication event was his first trip overseas to meet clients in more than two years and his first visit to South America.
“I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the Regional Steelworkers team and among the guests at the opening of this new lab,” said Padget. “I understand why, in part because we visited a supermarket in Santiago and saw the types of bread consumers buy and how they shop. In Chile, consumption is very high, and they buy most of their bread for the day by the piece. Consumers there and across South America are looking for excellent quality products with a “clean label” – very few additives. I think this lab will help USW demonstrate how our wheat flour is helping millers and bakers meet this demand.
Evidence of this was on display at the dedication event in the form of artfully crafted bread and pizza products by master baker Didier Rosada and his wife Kathy Cruz using flour milled from American wheat. USW frequently works with Red Brick Consulting in Rosada to organize bakery seminars in Spanish speaking countries. On the opening week, Rosada and the USW hosted a workshop using American wheat flour for customers representing 75% of Chile’s milling industry.
Traditional preferences and the landed price of imported wheat will remain a competitive challenge for US wheat in South America. But the full value of US wheat becomes more evident to customers through demonstration and training. There is now a facility dedicated to this work, giving the USW the ability to interact more frequently with regional customers and invest more of its funding to show them the unique advantages of American wheat.