Making connections and gaining information

the international association of Operative Millers (IAOM) conference was in Cape Town, South Africa this year and I made the long journey with our Marketing Manager, Todd Austin and our Ontario Wheat Technologist from the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI), Mike Reimer.  The conference is a gathering place for millers from the Middle East and Africa district of IAOM – the millers most likely to purchase soft wheat.

The conference attracts 650 delegates from all over the world representing multi-trade grain houses, flour millers, government authorities and commodity traders.  The three days spent in Cape Town provided us the opportunity to network with our colleagues from the large wheat producing nations – France, Australia, the US and western Canada – and make new contacts with countries growing their wheat production capacity.

The main reason for attending the conference is to continue building relationships with soft wheat millers.  We are learning more each year about the challenges these millers face when working with soft wheat and their quality and price requirements.  Interestingly, many millers are finding it challenging to transition their operations from milling hard wheat to milling soft wheat due to the cleaning procedures required in the transition. We will work with CIGI and utilize their international reputation as milling experts to assist with finding the millers who not only like soft wheat, but would be willing to utilize this class in their mills.

We have learned quite a lot about the production capabilities of all wheat producing nations through the country presentations done throughout the event, in particular the Russian presentation.  All of the delegates at the conference will be watching Russia quite closely this spring as the prevailing opinion is their acreage of spring wheat will have a large affect on the world market – determining whether Russia will be in a position to export wheat in the 2011 crop year or, will it be 2012 before Russia returns to exporting wheat.

From the other presentations throughout the conference we have gleaned that China plans to be more self sufficient in wheat and corn in the future while focusing their import program on soybeans.  In the US, wheat acres have gone down over the last while due to the growth of the ethanol market.  It is anticipated that one-third of the US corn crop will be produced for ethanol in 2011.

Another interesting trend to note is the transition of meat consumption from a luxury in developing countries to a source of protein available to more people.  As this trend continues, demand will continue to be strong for grain for animal feed.  Consensus among the delegates is that wheat demand will continue to grow which has very positive implications for all wheat producing countries, Canada included. •