Japanese Millers Follow
by Matthew Weaver
The tour includes a county elevator and terminal elevator in Lewiston, Idaho;
a tour of Genesee, Idaho, wheat grower Joe Anderson's farm; ...
Japanese millers are touring the Pacific Northwest this week. U.S. Wheat Associates vice president Steve Wirsching hopes to convey the reliability of U.S. wheat supplies to trade team, which represents a major customer for regional wheat producers.
Customers from Japan are following the Pacific Northwest wheat harvest this week.
The Idaho and Oregon wheat commissions and the Washington Grain Commission are hosting four Japanese milling executives July 5-12. The tour includes a county elevator and terminal elevator in Lewiston, Idaho; a tour of Genesee, Idaho, wheat grower Joe Anderson's farm; meeting with Washington State University wheat breeders; and touring the Portland export terminal.
Japan is the top customer for the region's wheat farmers, said Steve Wirsching, vice president of U.S. Wheat Associates in Portland.
"We often say that the Japanese market will take one out of every four bushels of wheat exported (in the Pacific Northwest)," he said. "They're the single-largest buyer of soft white wheat."
In the 2014-2015 marketing year, Japan purchased 986,000 metric tons of soft white wheat, up from 865,000 metric tons in 2013-2014, according to U.S. Wheat.
Japanese buyers use western white wheat, a blend that's 80 percent soft white wheat and 20 percent club wheat, a subclass of the soft white wheat variety. They use it to bake cakes, cookies and pastries.
Trade teams from Japan typically tour the region each summer. Individual companies also send teams to meet with commissions and growers, Wirsching said. Another group is slated to visit the region in September.
"The relationship built with the Japanese market over the last 50-plus years is very strong," he said.
The millers are interested in the quality of this year's crop, Wirsching said.
"These trade missions help build confidence in our ability to be a reliable supplier and provide a consistent, high-quality product," Wirsching said. "When we take them out to a country elevator or farm, we're showing them our supply chain and educating them about how we produce wheat ... and how we move that wheat into the market and over to Japan."
Wirsching said he believes both countries are looking forward to better trade relations under the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement that's being negotiated among 12 Pacific Rim nations. The recently approved trade promotion authority is a positive step, he said.
"It's seen overseas that our administration is serious about negotiating these free-trade agreements," Wirsching said. "Through these trade agreements, we'll just have more economic activity and growth. Both economies will benefit."
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