Before coming to Cigi I didn’t even know durum wheat existed, so it seems fitting that my final two weeks at Cigi before returning to school have been all about durum wheat.
In August, Cigi held two programs focused exclusively on Canadian durum wheat – the Latin America Durum Wheat Program and the Japan Durum Technical Exchange Program, as well as hosting a durum wheat seminar attended by Italian officials.
The fact that Cigi focused on durum during these programs is not surprising given that Canada is the world’s leading exporter of durum wheat and Canada Western Amber Durum is highly regarded for its superior colour and semolina yield. CWAD makes up 22 per cent of all Canada’s wheat exports.
Canada exported 4.6 million tonnes of CWAD in 2014-15. About 25 percent of the exported durum went to Italy, while 10 percent went to South and Central America and a little less than five percent went to Japan.
The Latin America Durum Wheat Program consisted of seven participants from countries across South and Central America: Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, Chile, and Ecuador.
Five of the participants were quality control managers but one was an international buyer and another a development engineer. They had practical technical sessions in Cigi’s pilot mill, analytical services lab, pilot pasta plant, and pilot bakery focused on the functionality and application of CWAD.
Durum is most commonly used to make pasta, but it has other uses too. Dinorath Arrieche is the Head of Quality Control at Pastas Capri in Venezuela. She said that while the top use for durum in Venezuela is pasta, they also use it to make hearth bread.
According to the Union of Organization of Manufacturers of Pasta Products of the EU, Venezuela is the third highest per capita consumer of pasta. At 12 kg of pasta per capita, it is surpassed only by Tunisia with 16 kg and Italy with 23.5 kg.
Since the country can’t grow wheat because the climate isn’t right for it, they have to import large amounts durum, making them a perfect market for Canada.
Dinorath said that her company has been in contact with Cigi for many years, and that most of her company’s management has attended Cigi programs. “I’m glad I was able to come,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed learning about new technologies.”
Kristina Pizzi is the Head of Analytical Services at Cigi and was the chair of the program. She said that the program helped give the participants some context for the wheat they’re buying from Canada.
“I think it gives them a very good understanding of the Canadian system from farm to end production,” she said. “Which I think will help them to appreciate the quality of our wheat.”
Kristina said the group was very engaged in the presentations and technical sessions. “They were very open and asked a lot of questions,” she said. “I think they wanted to make sure that they took advantage of this opportunity.”
The group also took advantage of one of the unique aspects of Cigi’s programs and made connections not just with Canadian resources, but also with their fellow participants from different countries and companies. They hoped to keep in touch with each other when they returned home and be able to share knowledge or help each other out with issues they might have.
After their sessions at Cigi, Dinorath and the other participants went on to Saskatchewan where they visited a farm and an inland grain terminal.
They encountered a small hiccup in Saskatchewan when their bus broke down on the way back to Swift Current from the farm, but Kristina said the participants took it all in stride, using the time to share snacks and photograph the huge full moon.
The group then continued their trip across Canada to British Columbia where they toured a terminal elevator and the Canadian Grain Commission offices in Vancouver.
As the Latin America group were getting ready to fly home from Vancouver, a group of eight Japanese participants were preparing to arrive in Winnipeg for their own durum program.
The Japan program was very similar to the Latin America program, but they spent more time in the CGC Grain Research Lab and Cigi’s pasta facility. In Japan, durum wheat is used exclusively for pasta.
It may be surprising that Japan makes pasta, as they’re more associated with noodles, but Esey Assefaw, Cigi’s Head of Asian Products and Pasta Technology said that pasta is a growing market among Japan’s younger generation.
Japan is an incredibly important durum market for Canada. One hundred percent of the durum it purchases is Canadian because Japanese buyers are looking for quality and Canadian durum is some of the best in the world.
This is my last post for Cigi. I’m writing this on my last day here. I’m sitting thinking about all the things I could say. I’ve written and re-written this paragraph maybe 10 times already, but the image I keep coming back to is from a few weeks ago.
It was on the trip to Pitura Seeds farm in Domain, Manitoba with the Indonesia Technical Exchange Program when I realized how many amazing experiences I’ve had this summer thanks to Cigi – like standing in a golden field of winter wheat with a bunch of millers from Indonesia!
I’m a city girl, born and raised. I’ve never been out of North America. But because of Cigi, there I was, excitedly discussing Emerson (the winter wheat variety which is the first fusarium resistant wheat) with managers from mills on the opposite side of the globe.
Cigi gave me so many opportunities to connect with both other countries and my own country. I’ve only scratched the surface of everything there is to know about wheat but I feel like I’ve learned so much.
Wheat is complicated and beautiful, and I love it, thanks to Cigi.
Hannah Gehman is a Creative Communications student at Red River College in Winnipeg. She worked at Cigi during the summer of 2016.