Korean milling executives look at U.S. wheat during trade mission

 The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) welcomed a trade team of four Korean executives from major flour milling companies to the United States July 16-23. USW collaborated with the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee (MWBC), Washington Grain Commission (WGC) and the Oregon Wheat Commission (OWC) to organize and host this trade team. Funding also came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). 

“Three of the team members recently took on new responsibilities for wheat purchasing, so this experience was essential to help them learn about the U.S. quality assurance system and to better understand the wheat supply chain,” said Chang Yoon Kang, USW Country director for Korea. “They had a firsthand look at the 2017 crop, which will help them prepare their upcoming purchasing plans.” 

The USDA reports that in marketing year 2016-17, South Korea imported 1.13 million tonnes of U.S. wheat, including U.S. soft white (SW), hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat. 

Kang, who led the trade team, explained that the Korean wheat foods market is developing in a way that is similar to the U.S. market. End-product flour specifications in Korea are becoming more complicated because consumers demand quality and an increasingly wide range of products. 

The team began its trip in Montana, where it immediately took a broad look at the complete supply chain with visits to the Northern Ag Research Center, CHS Big Sky, EGT, LLC, and Columbia Grain. The team members also visited the farm of MWBC director Randy Hinebauch and observed the HRS crop harvest. 

Next, the team traveled to Washington for a focus on wheat breeding and research. During a visit to the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Wheat Quality Lab in Pullman, Washington, U.S., the team participated in a blind taste test for noodles produced with flour from various varieties and wheat classes, and provided their feedback. 

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“The team had an extensive discussion about how quality is determined to correlate with end-users,” said Glen Squires, chief executive officer of the Washington Grain Commission. “The lab team explained how over time, the aggregate quality of Pacific Northwest wheat has been increasing as new varieties are released.” 

The team met with three breeders: Arron Carter, Washington State University (WSU) winter wheat breeder; Mike Pumphrey, WSU spring wheat breeder; and Kim Campbell, ARS club wheat breeder. They explained the breeding process and shared what they have learned from previous experiences meeting with customers and discussing end use needs, and how they have applied that knowledge to their work. 

The team also stopped by some local SW and club wheat fields. 

“Korea was one of the first countries I visited as a USW board member,” said Gary Bailey, USW board member from the WGC. “I strongly feel it is important to listen to our buyers to better understand their needs and concerns, along with what they like. I appreciate being able to meet with these customers to discuss this year’s crop with them.” 

On the last leg of their trip, the team traveled to Oregon, and in Portland met with the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC), Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) and Pacific Grain Exporters Association. They also visited the Columbia Export Terminal and toured some farms in the Willamette Valley. 

“This trip let us see firsthand, the quality of U.S. wheat and to meet the people who grow it,” said team member Dong Bae Nam, executive director, Sajodongaone Company. “I came with questions about U.S. wheat production, and meeting with FGIS and learning about the wheat breeding system showed me the quality and safety of U.S. wheat. We appreciate the hospitality and opportunity to build relationships with U.S. farmers.”

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