More than 110 customers from across South America, representing 92 different companies, tuned in on July 15 for a virtual wheat crop update. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the industry’s export market development organization, organized the activity, which included reports on the hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat harvests from Kansas and Oklahoma.
“Our buyers appreciate these webinars, especially when in-person visits are not possible,” said Aaron Harries, VP of research and operations for Kansas Wheat. “This virtual setting continues a long-standing tradition of providing our global buyers with greater insight into the production potential, preliminary quality data, and the factors currently affecting the market and prices.”
In a normal year, USW organizes in-person tours across the globe — called crop quality tours — to provide firsthand insights into the current year’s wheat harvest. Kansas Wheat staff regularly participates in these programs to provide personalized information to each market and receive feedback directly from customers. This year, these programs have transitioned to a virtual format.
“Even though this type of activity does not replace the crop quality tours, the virtual program did help to reach more people in less time,” said Maria Fernanda Martínez López, USW program coordinator for South America. “It has allowed us to expand participation to people involved not only in the wheat purchasing process but also those who support making those decisions, such as staff from research and development and quality control from mills, pasta and biscuit manufacturers from South America.”
Attendees from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru included a mix of roles — from new entrepreneurs to company owners — and most were long-standing customers. Seventy percent of the participating countries were wheat importers, important audiences for Kansas wheat farmers as half of the Kansas wheat crop is exported. These South American markets represent 16 percent of U.S. wheat market share, with imports for the last five years ranging from roughly 19.9 million bushels (nearly 541,000 metric tons) to nearly 49.2 million bushels (about 1.34 million metric tons).
This year’s virtual meeting was emceed by Harries and Miguel Galdós, USW South America regional director. Romulo Lollato, wheat and forage extension specialist at Kansas State University, discussed the preliminary report on the Kansas HRW wheat harvest, followed by reports on the Oklahoma HRW crop by Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and the Kansas SRW crop by Justin Gilpin, Kansas Wheat CEO. The program ended with comments from Shawn Campbell of The Andersons Trading Group on the grain trade and Brian Linin, a wheat farmer from Goodland who was in the midst of harvest.
“We truly believe that informed people make better decisions and — with these kinds of activities — we offer the opportunity to reinforce our customers’ knowledge in U.S. wheat and its journey from the farm to their respective countries,” López said. “This information is important not only after harvest but throughout the marketing year, whenever they need it.”
USW will continue this educational effort by following up with personalized visits to the companies represented on the virtual trade team, some of whom made immediate requests for technical consultations following the program. The USW office in Santiago, Chile, also has plans to install a rheology and bakery laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment to add another way to promote the reliability, quality and value of U.S. wheat.
Learn more about the importance of export market development at uswheat.org.