Customers from around the world attend Cigi’s 49th International Grain Industry Program

By Hannah Gehman

In July Cigi hosted its 49th International Grain Industry Program for customers of Canadian grain from around the world.

First held in 1973, what has become Cigi’s flagship program is designed to educate international grain customers about the Canadian value chain and grain quality and in turn provide industry members an opportunity to engage with representatives from customer companies.

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Participants of the 49th International Grain Industry Program, a program Cigi has held for the past 43 years.

This year 22 participants attended the program from Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Peru, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan.

Not only were the participants from different countries covering four continents, they were also from different areas of the grain industry, including traders, buyers, researchers, and many different types of managers.

The program gave international customers an in-depth overview of the Canadian value chain, and included technical sessions in baking, milling, analytical services, pasta, and noodles and Asian products. The participants also had an opportunity to ask questions and voice any concerns about wheat quality.

Haitham Al-Khshali, Director General of the Grain Board of Iraq, attended the program and also visited Cigi in May when he was part of the Iraq-Canada Grain Industry Program, the first held for that country at Cigi in more than 20 years.

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Emmanuel Mshelia (second from left) and Haitham Al-Khshali (third from left) listen to farmer Ernie Wiens discuss Canadian crops.

Although Iraq‘s population is increasing, the conflict in that country is limiting the ability of farmers to increase wheat production to meet market demand, he says. There are water shortage issues, as well as vast areas of land that are too unsafe to farm. This means that Iraq has had to increase the amount of wheat they import from other countries.

Canadian wheat exports to Iraq have decreased since importing more than one million tonnes in 2009/10. In 2014/15 they imported 250,000 MT and so far this year, 200,000 MT. Haitham says the high quality of Canadian is perfect for Iraqi end-use needs, which includes instant noodles and pita bread.

He says he wants to start building a new base for Iraqi knowledge. “Building a base needs educated people. They will be good for our country and our future.”

Haitham was so impressed with Cigi’s programs, that he has already been talking to Cigi about training programs for Iraqis. He says wants to keep working with both Cigi and Canada. “I hope this good relationship proceeds in the future.”

Emmanuel Mshelia is the AGM of Operations for Royal Mills and Foods Limited, an up-and-coming food manufacturing company in Nigeria. Their main production line is currently instant noodles, a growing trend in Nigerian diets.

Emmanuel says Royal Mills uses CWRS for noodle production because Nigerian consumers love the firmness it gives the noodles. Although instant noodles are not traditionally African, he says that they are popular in Nigeria because they are quick and easy to make.

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Friederike Greb (right) makes cinnamon buns with 100% CWRS flour.

This was Emmanuel’s first visit to Canada and he says he found the program very useful. “I’ve seen first-hand the Canadian grain industry and how it operates. And most importantly for me, I’ve really come to see how reliable Canadian wheat is, the reliability of the quality, the consistency.”

Dr. Friederike Greb is an economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations who took the program not as a buyer or a technologist, but because more knowledge about the Canadian grain industry can benefit her in her position.

“My background is very theoretical,” she says, “So I asked my boss whether he knew of some courses to take to get a better understanding of the wheat market.”

Her boss, Abby Abbassian, suggested the International Grain Industry Program, which he had taken in 1994.

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Abby Abbassian (middle row, third from left) at the 28th International Grain Industry Program in 1994.

Friederike says she thinks she is the participant who learned the most. “If you’re a miller, you know the milling part, if you’re a trader you know about the quality issues. But I had no idea how complicated wheat is.”

Dave Burrows, Chief Operating Officer at Cigi, says that the International Grain Industry Program is incredibly important, providing Cigi and other industry players with an opportunity to interact with customers more on a one-on-one level. “We want to enhance customers’ trust in the Canadian value chain as well as reassure them that we are constantly working towards improvements in the industry that are aimed at maintaining their loyalty to Canadian wheat.”

Hannah Gehman is a Creative Communications student at Red River College in Winnipeg. She worked at Cigi during the summer of 2016.