New crop missions engage Canadian wheat customers in 20 countries worldwide

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DSCN4920 Lima Peru

JoAnne Buth, Cigi CEO (front row, second from right), in Lima, Peru with the Latin America new crop mission team.

New crop missions to Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa marked the second year that Cigi, the Canadian Grain Commission and Cereals Canada, together with producers and exporters, successfully presented crop quality data, wheat class and production information to Canadian wheat customers.

“We see the importance of going together with a grower and exporter at each location,” says JoAnne Buth, Cigi Chief Executive Officer, about customer seminars given in 20 countries last November and December. “This joint effort reflects our value chain. It includes the regulator, the exporter who can answer questions on supply, and growers committed to quality and safety.”

Cereals Canada and exporters discussed Canadian supply and demand, the CGC focused on grading factors, quality assurance, and wheat class changes, and a producer presented on Canadian wheat farming. Cigi focused on quality data of the new crop in support of customers meeting their end-use requirements.

This is the first time a new crop session was also offered in Canada, kicking off the missions in Mississauga, Ontario. JoAnne notes that Canada is its own biggest wheat customer, purchasing about 2.5 million tonnes annually.

“We had very good representation from millers and bakers as well as quality people so there was some good discussion. For instance, one miller mentioned their analysis showed a difference with durum quality this year and our Cigi technical staff verified we had seen the same thing. It was a good example of where we offered value by providing supporting information.”

That scenario played out in other locations the team visited around the world. JoAnne travelled with the group on the Latin America new crop mission which included seminars in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico. Latin America primarily buys CWRS and CPSR.

“We had great turnouts and the overall impression of Latin American markets is that Canadian wheat is very important to them,” she says. “Mexico City, for one, had a lot of questions and discussion of issues. Whether blending or using 100%, they are very knowledgeable about using Canadian wheat. In other locations it was more about providing information.”

One area of particular interest was in the CGC’s wheat class modernization plan involving a review of the Canadian wheat classes and improvements in consistency, JoAnne says. The plan also involves the addition of a new milling wheat class addressing needs of both producers and the markets. “The response was generally positive and there was quite a bit of interest especially in the new milling class.”

She says production of three CWRS wheat varieties which have lower gluten strength has decreased, resulting in improvements in the latest crop. Other Cigi staff on the missions concur that gluten strength was less of a concern for customers and the quality was much better overall.

Improved crop quality reported this year

Referring to the European mission to Italy and the U.K., Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi Director of Grain Quality, says that customers in the U.K. were cautiously optimistic that this year will be better as far as gluten strength in CWRS and welcome changes being made in terms of the wheat class modernization. By moving some wheat varieties into a different class and removing others, they were pleased that consistency in quality is also expected to improve.

This year a larger percentage of the crop fell within the higher grades, Elaine says. “Last year we had, for example, only 13% of durum graded as No. 1 and 2. This year I think we are closer to the long-term average of more than 50%. It shows the quality difference from last year’s crop. Although we had the same downgrading factors it wasn’t to the same degree as last year.”

One concern in Europe was the level of fusarium and DON (deoxynivalenol or vomitoxin) for which the EU has strict legislation, she says. Italy typically purchases lower grade durum which is more economical but also increases the likelihood of fusarium as a downgrading factor.

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Customers in Foggia, Italy listen to presentations on the improved quality of this year’s durum wheat crop.

“The reason they prefer lower grade durum is that the Italians are generally referred to as master millers, pretty well able to take straw and spin it into gold,” Elaine says. “Canadian durum overall has excellent yellow colour and good gluten strength, so they can use that to blend and improve the quality of other (lower quality) durum wheat and make sure they have the quality requirements they need.”

Lisa Nemeth, Cigi Director of International Markets, who went on the mission to Asia says that Japan, which primarily imports No. 1 or 2 CWRS as well as some higher grade CWAD, was pleased with this year’s crop quality. As in other locations, customers were interested in changes regarding the wheat class modernization and efforts to maintain consistency.

Customers in countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, and China were also interested in quality data on the smaller classes such as CPSR and CWRW, she says. “Because they use those types of wheat for various end products, that information did generate interest. In any follow-up programs or conversations we will keep those classes in mind if there is availability to sell to those markets.”

Lisa says it’s important that exporters participate in the new crop missions for a couple of reasons. One is that the exporter gets a sense of the various market requirements.

“The exporter usually speaks with buyers so doesn’t necessarily get a sense of what those buyers are hearing from their technical people,” she says. “For an exporter to be in a room with Cigi technical staff answering customers’ questions was helpful for them to understand the various factors like protein quality and the end-use functionality. It was also important for customers to hear from the exporters about the supply and demand and to answer questions on logistics.”

New crop seminars in West Africa a first

MENA Mission in Ghana (1)_revised

Yvonne Supeene, Head of Baking Technology, Cigi, in Ghana on the first new crop mission to West Africa.

New crop seminars were held for the first time in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Bangladesh, part of the new crop mission to the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa.

“West Africa isn’t new in terms of purchasing Canadian wheat, but they are new as far as being an important market that Canada has recognized,” says Dave Burrows, Cigi Chief Operating Officer. “In the Ivory Coast, for example, we had an excellent turnout with lots of questions. We had a very engaged group who really appreciated hearing about the quality.”

He says that customers had also flown or driven long distances from other West African countries such as Cameroon to attend the seminar. In Ghana, attendees “liked the fact there’s more availability (of better wheat grades), that any issue with gluten strength is reversing, and that the Canadian team was actually in West Africa.”

The first-time new crop visit to Bangladesh was also positive with “one of the best organized seminars and one of the most engaged audiences,” says Dave. “Bangladesh is a huge opportunity. They might top over a million tonnes this year. They are extremely loyal to Canadian wheat.”

North Africa, Middle East, traditionally important markets

In North Africa, seminars were held in Morocco and Algeria, traditionally important durum markets, and a webinar was arranged for Tunisia, he says. “They’re committed to the use of durum in terms of producing couscous and understand that Canadian durum has the highest quality in the world. They also get technical support they wouldn’t get from anywhere else.”

Dave says that after customers had only some No. 2 and mostly No. 3 CWAD to use last year, they are pleased that No. 1 is available. “They were happy to hear about the quality characteristics. The risk you have when you don’t have what a customer wants is that they will go elsewhere.”

He says that last year, with only No. 2 and 3 CWAD available, Cigi technical staff helped customers understand how to work with lower grades to meet the quality requirements of their end products. “Sometimes a measure of success is keeping customers rather than having them buy more, and last year was a perfect example.”

MENA Mission in Dubai (7)

Saskatchewan producer Gerrid Gust presents on farming in Canada for customers at the seminar in Dubai.

In addition, the mission members presented in Dubai, also a historically significant market especially for CWRS. “Overall, this year, customers were happy there was a return in gluten strength and the partnering of Cereals Canada, the CGC and Cigi to support them,” Dave says. “And they were pleased about availability of the higher grades.”

He adds that locations for the new crop seminars will be reviewed annually for a number of factors such as wheat import volume, economics, demographics, and trade agreements to best target the destinations on behalf of the industry.