Mexican customers on first Cigi technical exchange confirm interest in Canadian wheat classes

By Ellen Goodman

Senior managers from Grupo Trimex, Mexico’s largest milling company and a customer of Canadian wheat, recently came to Cigi on a technical exchange for the first time. The one-week program followed a Cigi investigative mission to Mexico last February representing the first visit to a number of milling company facilities including Grupo Trimex which has 13 mills across the country.

“Mexico is a huge market which imported 4.6 million tonnes of Canadian wheat over five years to 2015,” says Juan Carlos Arriola, Head of Cigi Milling Technology.

He notes that Canadian wheat exports to Mexico in 2015-16 dropped from an annual average of one million MT to 700,000 MT mainly due to encroachment from Russian wheat imports.

“When I was working in Latin America (as a miller) we never considered Russian (wheat) as an alternative,” he says. “But on our mission we discovered the Russians have been selling a lot to Mexico mainly due to price, availability and improved quality.”

Juan Carlos says Mexican milling companies buy wheat from other origins as well, such as France and the Black Sea region, often through brokers. While Canada exports mostly high-protein, high-quality CWRS, some customers purchase “grocery vessel” shipments of different quality and protein wheats from competitor countries for use in various types of bread.

“Bread applications using CWRS are only 25-35% of the Mexican market,” Juan Carlos says. “CWRS is often used for blending with local or other wheat to improve strength rather than using wheats like CPSR and CWRW because there is not always enough availability or knowledge about the different Canadian wheat classes.”

Luis Cortes, Operations and Technical Director, Grupo Trimex, who is responsible for the operation of 10 mills across Mexico, says his company makes its own wheat purchases and imports 200,000 MT of Canadian wheat annually, 99% of which is CWRS.  He is interested in Grupo Trimex mills using other Canadian wheat classes which is one reason for accepting the invitation to come to Cigi as part of the technical exchange.

Grupo Trimex representatives discuss quality characteristics of bread made with Canadian wheat with Cigi baking staff during a hands-on technical session.

Grupo Trimex representatives discuss quality characteristics of bread made with Canadian wheat with Cigi baking staff during a hands-on technical session.

Luis explains that, although he is not a wheat buyer, he influences purchasing decisions through technical advice and support at his company which mills a range of flours from low-protein cake flour to high-protein industrial bakery flours.

Few of their customers require 100% CWRS although some do for premium products, he says. “About 80-90% of our production involves blending wheats, so we can use CPSR or CNHR (new milling class) or CWRS.

“Since Cigi’s visit to Mexico in February we found there are these other milling classes available. We have seen the (milling and baking) performance results of CNHR, all the technical data, and it looks very promising.”

Luis says his colleagues on the technical exchange also included the manager of the largest mill in Latin America and manager of the company’s second largest mill.  “I asked them to come on the program as well because they are the largest users of CWRS and would likely be the first to use CPSR or CNHR.”

Establishing a relationship based on confidence in a wheat supplier is the key to doing business with Grupo Trimex, he says. “The relationship with the traders is very important for us, something that is long-term where we have built trust. I need a partner who can provide solutions for our needs.”

Luis says he prefers to meet face-to-face with sellers and to go on location where the wheat originates, including an elevator visit if possible. While on the Cigi program Luis and the other members of the group toured a Manitoba farm and a terminal elevator in Ontario.

Meeting with Cigi technical staff in Mexico and coming to Winnipeg has opened doors, he says. “Cigi does an important job for us because it has all the connections, and of course all the technical data and other information. We also met people from the Canadian Grain Commission who provide all the certification.”

Luis Cortes making tortillas with CPSR in Cigi's pilot bakery.

Luis Cortes making tortillas with CPSR in Cigi’s pilot bakery.

One highlight at Cigi was when the group had a unique and unexpected opportunity to make and evaluate tortillas, Luis says. “Only bread baking was on the program but the milling and baking staff arranged for tortilla tests. We produce a lot of tortilla flour with a particular interest in CPSR. After seeing and understanding the quality we thought it looks like a good wheat for tortillas. The test was important for us.”

He adds that the experience in the pilot mill was also interesting with evaluating the performance characteristics of CWRS in more detail.

“We really appreciate the invitation to Cigi,” Luis says. “It was very useful and significant for us.”