Cigi finds CPSR wheat popular for pasta and bread in Latin America

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CPSR has got the quality it takes to produce pasta products that appeal to consumers in Colombia according to a representative from a major Colombian milling and food processing company who visited Cigi recently on a Latin America-Canada Grain Industry Program.

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José Fernando is hands-on with pasta processed with CWAD at Cigi during the Latin America-Canada Grain Industry Program.

José Fernando Cachón Valencia, Production and Project Manager for Harinera del Valle in Cali, says his company has exclusively used Canadian wheat for the past several years, blending 60% CWRS with 40% CPSR for bread flour. As one of the country’s top pasta producers, Harinera del Valle also uses CPSR and CWAD, respectively, for lower- and higher-quality pasta.

“We use both common wheat and durum wheat for pasta,” José Fernando says. “The market for premium pasta in Colombia is very small, and we only use CWAD for that. For the rest we use 100% CPSR.”

Colombians do not have a “culture” of regular pasta consumption, he says, noting it is more often served on special occasions. In less affluent parts of the country it may be sold in packages as small as 90 grams. “Even then it may be for two or three people. They are not concerned whether it is al dente or has a nice (yellow) colour. They look more at the price so in this regard CPSR is a good wheat for pasta.”

Packaged pasta products in Colombia.

Packaged pasta products in Colombia.

José Fernando says that a few years ago CPSR improved in quality and has consistently met his company’s needs. Although at times there have been some supply issues, he has no recent concerns.

During his time at Cigi, José also had an opportunity to look at other Canadian wheat classes such as the new Canada Northern Hard Red. “I wanted to find out more about CNHR and it sounds very good.”

In June, Cigi technical staff visited Colombia, Peru and Chile and met with companies that import an average total of about 70% of the wheat in each country. One main objective was to learn about their use of CWRS and CPSR for flour and semolina production, in both various blends and with other wheats as well as in end-use applications. The focus in Peru and Colombia was on pasta and baking and in Chile, on baking. At the time, Cigi staff met with José Fernando at Harinera del Valle where they found out more about the company’s operations and requirements.

Esey Assefaw, Head of Cigi’s Asian Products and Pasta Technology, says that Latin American countries they visited have sophisticated milling and food processing operations. As relative latecomers to pasta, they have assimilated it with more traditional food products which are softer (typically including rice and other cooked vegetables), rather than look for Italian-style pasta made with durum that can have a firm or “al dente” bite and yellower colour. “Typically they use 100% CPSR for low- to medium-quality pasta and they will also do some blending with (higher-protein) CWRS or other wheats for baking and other end products such as noodles.”

Yvonne Supeene, Head of Cigi Baking Technology, who also participated in the mission says she was impressed with the amount of CPSR used for pasta and that, overall, the countries they visited buy a significant amount of Canadian wheat. In 2015-16 Canadian wheat purchases totalled 916,000 tonnes (MT) in Colombia, more than 1.1 million MT in Peru, and 284,000 MT in Chile. Durum imports numbered about 31,000 MT for Colombia, 111,000 MT for Peru and 10,500 MT in Chile.

Cigi's Yvonne Supeene takes a close look at commercial bread products on store shelves in Cali, Colombia.

Cigi’s Yvonne Supeene takes a close look at commercial breads on store shelves in Cali, Colombia.

“The biggest thing I took away was how valuable CPSR is in the market for pasta, as well as bread,” she says. “They love it. There is a huge demand and if we had more they would buy it. They aren’t after really high protein, so a low-protein CWRS, or CPRS can meet their requirements. We noticed in those markets how CPSR is as important to them as CWRS.”

The group found that companies aren’t using Russian wheat or wheat from other sources because CPSR offers what they need. However, if CPSR is in short supply they can replace it with U.S. HRW.

A continued Canadian presence in Latin America is important to maintain relationships with customers as competitor wheats such as that from the U.S. and Black Sea are slowly making inroads, says Esey, adding that U.S. HRW was once more commonly used than CPSR in these markets.

José Fernando, for one, appreciates the relationship that his company has been building with Cigi staff who also visited one of Harinera del Valle’s customer bakeries. “They only buy our flour and are very happy. We visited their plant and took the opportunity to check the process, saw the packaging area, and talked about the market with the owner. It was important because as my customer he knows if there is any problem my company has the support of an institute like Cigi.”

Cigi staff and representatives from Cereals Canada, Canadian Grain Commission, grain exporters and producers will again visit Colombia, Peru and Chile as part of new crop seminars this November and December when harvest assessment data and end-product evaluation results will be presented to customers in 17 countries throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, North Africa and West Africa.

Details on 2017 western Canadian crop quality will be available at www.canadianwheat.ca in early November.