Trying to rebuild her country after 25 years of civil strife, Albina Assis Africano, the trade minister from Angola, came to the U.S. last year seeking help. The effort is paying off, with proceeds from U.S. wheat and wheat flour donations going to support efforts to provide job training to Angolan women.
Coming after two years of coordinated efforts by U.S. wheat Associates and the North American Miller's Association, the recent food aid donation of 15,000 metric tons of hard red winter wheat (HRW) and 20,000 metric tons of wheat flour milled exclusively from HRW should also help to build a market for U.S. wheat. The donation was announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently, under their Section 416 (b) program.
Last year, U.S. wheat Associates (USW), the industry's export market development organization, sponsored the Angola's Minister of Industry visit to the U.S. While here, Minister Africano explored ideas for developing the Angolan wheat foods industry. She came up with a plan to use wheat and flour donations to train women bakers and establish local mills.
The wheat and flour will be sold, under a humanitarian aid process called "monetization," and the proceeds will be used to support training programs for food processing, bakery training and small scale milling of local crops.
"The creative work of Minister Africano is gratifying," explained Ed Wiese, USW regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa. "With her inspiration, and our knowledge of the wheat industry, we've got a program that is a win-win for all concerned. The U.S. can help meet Angola's humanitarian needs and, at the same time, help establish a U.S. wheat market for the long term."
USW and the North American Millers Association (NAMA), in a cooperative effort, urged the USDA to provide both wheat for local mills, and flour for areas where mills have yet to be established. They also worked extensively with private and public sector entities in Angola, setting the stage for the U.S. donation.
"U.S. millers are pleased with the cooperative relationship we have forged in the Angolan market, working with the U.S. wheat industry and the U.S. government to 'grow the market' for flour and wheat simultaneously," said Betsy Faga, president of NAMA. "By combining our efforts, using a lot of creativity, working with USDA and, most importantly, working with the countries to meet the needs that they articulate, programs like this can benefit everyone."
Hard red winter (HRW) wheat is ideal for Angolan breads. Humanitarian shipments of HRW flour to Angola have been made in past years under the USDA's PL 480 Title I and Food for Progress programs, and the flour is widely known among bakers there, who clamor for the flour when it arrives. Explaining why USW and NAMA are putting so much effort into developing an Angolan preference for U.S. wheat and flour, Wiese points to the potential growth in the food market there. "We know that, when Angola becomes stable, they could develop into a million ton commercial market for U.S. wheat and flour," he points out.
USW and NAMA aren't the only ones expressing confidence in Angola's potential. Seaboard Corporation, an international milling company based in the U.S., recently invested in the refurbishment of a flour mill in the capitol city of Luanda, and is significantly expanding the mill's annual milling capacity.
"Few Americans realize how rich Angola is in natural resources," Wiese explains. "In fact, over 8% of U.S. oil imports comes from Angola. We're certain that their post war economy is going to provide amazing growth for wheat food consumption."
We want to be the preferred supplier to Angola once they are able to enter the world economy," Wiese says. "In the meantime, we are working to ensure that Angola gets the wheat and flour it needs during these difficult times."