Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the U.S., Middle East and Africa Grain Forum, Partnership for Trade, in Doha, Qatar. It was a unique and important chance for the U.S. grain industry to connect with our past, present and future customers in the region. I joined 123 participants from 15 countries at the two-day conference that covered diverse topics and provided ample time for discussion and networking.
The event was a jointly sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Soybean Export Council, North American Export Grain Association and was funded by a USDA. Importers, traders, millers and government officials often work with more than one commodity and face similar logistical issues when importing U.S. grains and oilseeds. The conference provided a place for a broader discussion of those issues and opportunities.
Experts presented risk management tools for importers and tips for avoiding problems and disputes when entering into contracts. They discussed new technology in grain handling, storage and milling and addressed U.S. and world freight issues, international trade policy and the future of biotech crops.
Each of the commodities had a time to shine. As one of several USW representatives, I presented a world supply and demand update for wheat and provided an early outlook for the 2014 winter wheat crop. I discussed current factors that are driving prices and affecting the world market. Each commodity-specific delegation presented similar information.
I was honored to help inform such a distinguished group. The buyers at the event were part of the USW Middle Eastern, East and North African Region that imported 4.91 million metric tons (MMT) of U.S. wheat on average the past five years, accounting for 17 percent of total U.S. exports. This forum was a direct result of the value U.S. wheat farmers place on the regional relationships and served as an investment in their future maintenance. Armed with the tools and information we shared, importers and government officials will have greater confidence in the reliability of the U.S. grain industry and the consistent quality of the products.
Each of the U.S. participants walked away with a better understanding of this important regional market and better prepared to serve our customers in the future. Though much of today’s international business is done over the phone or internet, shaking your customer’s hand remains so supremely important. I was fortunate to have the chance to continue USW’s long tradition of meeting with our valued customers in person.