Most folks jump at the chance to hop in the combine and get a firsthand look at the Kansas wheat harvest from the buddy seat. For Mexican flour millers — like the team that visited Kansas and Ohio in June — it’s not just a joyride, but a chance to evaluate their main material directly from the source. And for Kansas farmers, these conversations with large and important customers keeps grain flowing south.
“We are excited to be able to bring customers to the U.S. again to meet face-to-face with U.S. wheat farmers and to learn about the U.S. marketing system,” said Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) assistant regional director for Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Venezuela, who led the team. “The face-to-face conversations and hands-on experiences an in-person trade team offers are invaluable.”
“Virtual meetings, conferences and events have allowed USW to remain in close contact with our customers around the world during the past two years, but there’s nothing like riding in the combine with the U.S. farmer as they harvest their wheat; standing in the field of wheat rolling the wheat head between your hands to check the kernels; or breaking bread together and we are pleased to be able to share these in-person experiences with our customers again.”
The Kansas Wheat Commission is a member of USW, which combines funding from 17 state wheat commissions and cost-share grants from the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). USW promotes the reliability, quality and value of all six U.S. wheat classes to wheat buyers, millers, bakers, food processors and government officials in more than 100 countries around the world.
As part of this work, USW organizes in-person tours across the globe to provide firsthand insights into the current year’s wheat harvest.
Kansas Wheat staff regularly participates in these programs to provide personalized information to each market and receive feedback directly from customers.
Area fields were rained out in Kansas, meaning no combine rides, but the team did have the chance to learn more about the Kansas wheat from farm to export.
In Manhattan, the team toured the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center to learn more about the industry and ongoing research. At the USDA Center for Grain and Animal Health Research, the team received an update on this year’s crop quality and the IGP Institute offered an overview of international education opportunities.
In the field, the team toured the Grain Craft flour mill in McPherson and visited MKC’s grain terminal in Canton, interested specifically in the train loader and inspection station. Rail is an important piece of the flow of wheat from the United States to Mexico. Train loading facilities and direct rail access make transportation directly to Mexican flour mills easy.
In the 2021/2022 marketing year, 74 percent of U.S. wheat exports to Mexico were delivered via direct rail, an average of five unit or shuttle trains (110 rail cars a piece) per week.
Those rail shipments add up to make Mexico an important market for U.S. wheat producers. Mexico has been the largest market for U.S. wheat by volume for six consecutive years as well as the top market for both U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat.
In the 2021/2022 marketing year, which ended on May 31, Mexico purchased nearly 136 million bushels (3.7 million metric tons) of U.S. wheat, up two percent from the previous year. In the first week of the 2022/2023 marketing year, Mexico purchased 29.5 million bushels (802,000 metric tons) of U.S. wheat, including 6.28 million bushels (171,000 metric tons) of U.S. HRW wheat.
That’s good news for wheat producers — and all the more reason to open the door to the combine and invite the world in to see just how hard Kansans work year-in and year-out to provide the world’s most reliable choice of quality wheat.