With the 2012 North Dakota wheat harvest complete, customers are eager to see and learn firsthand the quality as they plan their purchases. One such group of Japanese customers will be in the state next week to receive a quality update, as well as get updates from wheat breeders and other researchers at North Dakota State University (NDSU). A Japanese trade team consisting of representatives from three large flour mills and the Flour Millers Association will visit the state September 30 - October 2. The team will be accompanied by Wataru "Charlie" Utsunomiya, Director of the U.S. Wheat Associates Tokyo office.
Japan is the largest market for U.S. hard red spring wheat, annually purchasing nearly 55 million bushels. The country currently imports very little durum, but changes to their buying system may bring more opportunities in the future. In total, Japan bought 128 million bushels of U.S. wheat in 2011-12, consisting primarily of hard red spring, white and hard red winter wheat. The majority of their wheat purchases come from the U.S., Canada and Australia, with the U.S. supplying 64 percent of their total needs last year.
"Japan is our most consistent and largest buyer of high quality wheat," says Erica Olson, NDWC Marketing Specialist, "however, we can't take that for granted. We have competition from other wheat producing countries and we need to emphasize the quality and reliability advantages of our wheat". Olson adds, "We must also address any concerns they have regarding our wheat supply to maximize market share and price opportunities for our producers." These team visits help the flour millers understand the U.S. supply system and increase their confidence that they can supply a safe, clean product to their customers with U.S. wheat.
The group will meet with HRS and durum quality specialists at NDSU to get an overview of the quality of this year's crop as well as meet with the HRS and durum breeders to get an understanding of what type of varieties will be in the system in future years. In this year's visit, there is particular interest in understanding how the North American marketing system may change with the dismissal of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly as well as supply and demand factors for U.S. wheat and a better understanding of how producers make planting decisions. While in North Dakota, the team will also visit the Northern Crops Institute and stop at a local elevator facility.
The team is sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates and will make stops in Idaho and Oregon prior to their return to Japan.
The NDWC and U.S. Wheat Associates works to maintain and improve export market opportunities for North Dakota wheat farmers and producers in 18 other states with support from the farmers themselves through a per bushel checkoff.