A trade delegation from sub-Saharan Africa recently visited the United States to see the U.S. wheat industry up close.
“They do prefer U.S. wheat because of quality aspects,” said Gerald Theus, U.S. Wheat Associates. “The only problem is price but U.S. wheat is seen as the leader in quality. Russian wheat is the big competition for us in that region. Also, Ukraine, Black Sea wheat, Australian, Canadian. We have pretty much all wheat-exporting nations involved in Africa.”
The trade delegation visited several states. In Oklahoma, wheat farmer Don Schieber was part of the welcoming team.
“There were 12 of them from Nigeria and South Africa,” he said. “Flour millers and grain buyers for flour millers in those countries. Eleven of the 12 had never seen a combine before and so they got to ride the combine. They just couldn’t believe seeing the straw go into the machine and then coming out as grain in the bin. It just blew their mind to see how that would work.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Three months after the African delegation went home, U.S. Wheat Associates sent an American trade team back to visit the buyers in their home countries.
“We went to visit them in Lagos, Nigeria,” Schieber said. “Then we visited flour millers in South Africa that had been here in the United States. The thing that caught my eye was that when they came here to visit us and had a good experience, it really blew their minds to have us visit them in their home countries.”
Many of the same people who hosted the African trade delegation here were on the follow-up visit in September. Schieber said it’s important to have familiar faces.
“When we have a trade team visit us,” he said. “We need to go see them within a year’s time.”
Nigeria is one of the top volume customers of U.S. wheat, including hard red winter wheat used for flour. South Africa is a smaller market but they have to import approximately 50 percent of the wheat needed for annual consumption.
The trade tours are paid for by USDA’s Foreign Market Development export programs.
Wheat Squared is sponsored by the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Genetics, Inc. Find our more at www.wheatsquared.com.