by Matthew Weaver
Masuda Flour Milling Co. buyers, from Japan, met with Washington Grain Commission
representatives to discuss the possibility of using Washington wheat varieties in new products.
Buyers from a Japanese flour company got a whirlwind look at wheat in Washington and the Pacific Northwest as they look for new varieties to develop new products.
Representatives of the Masuda Flour Milling Co., Ltd., met with representatives of the Washington Grain Commission to discuss variety availability and quality, and learn more about the wheat production system.
"Masuda is a small percentage of their market share, but as a mid-sized Japanese company, they're one of the most progressive and most important," said Dana Herron, a board member on the commission. "We don't get a chance to visit with them very often, so this meeting was very productive."
Masuda often looks to fine-tune its wheat purchases, Herron said. The company is a big user of club wheat, a subclass of soft white wheat primarily produced in Washington State, often blended with regular soft white wheat as Western white wheat when exported to customers overseas.
Masuda buys varieties that have specific end-use qualities from grain sheds, Herron said.
"They're very much interested in the functional end-use quality of our wheat," he said.
Herron believes Masuda will look to buy more wheat from the United States.
"This year is a little easier to sell than most because our quality is exceptional, our dockage and foreign material is very low and protein is right at the sweet spot, so we don't have any quality problems," he said.
Japan is the second-largest buyer of soft white wheat. They purchased nearly 784,000 metric tons for the 2016-2017 marketing year, said Glen Squires, CEO of the commission. Japan purchased 2.86 million metric tons of U.S. wheat for the same period.
Masuda initiated the meeting with the commission, Herron said. They buy through Vox Trading USA Corporation, based in Hillsboro, Ore.
Vox president Katsuhiro Takahashi said the company wanted to know about this year's crop, and hoped to do more business in the Pacific Northwest.
"We appreciate (farmers') constant supply to us and its quality," Takahashi said.
Herron expected the visitors to also tour Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.,, and an export facility in Portland, Ore.
Masuda, like other companies, seeks a way to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market, Herron said.
"This meeting was as important for them as it was for us," he said. "The relationships that exist between the commission and our customers are just as important as the farmer's relationship with his banker or accountant. It's a relationship business, it's not all about the money."
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