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Bridging continents - Kansas wheat's trade mission to Africa
Kansas Ag Connection - 04/01/2024

Kansas Wheat Commission's Chairman, Gary Millershaski, along with fellow wheat farmers Bill Schroeder and RJ Parrish, embarked on a pivotal 10-day trade mission to Sub-Saharan Africa, orchestrated by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

Guided by the belief that developing international markets mirrors the patience and investment akin to planting a wheat crop, the mission aimed to nurture and strengthen ties with wheat buyers and millers in South Africa and Nigeria.

"It’s not what we did yesterday, but it’s the knowledge we accumulate today to make us better understand how to deal with (the market) and make more sales tomorrow," Millershaski stated, encapsulating the spirit of the mission.

Sub-Saharan Africa, a region encompassing 42 countries with a rapidly growing population of 1.1 billion, has seen a consistent five percent growth in wheat imports since 2012/2013.

Despite stiff competition, primarily from the European Union, the USW and Kansas Wheat have made significant strides, notably in Nigeria, which emerged as the fourth-largest buyer of U.S. wheat in the 2021/2022 marketing year.

The trade mission, while facing the challenges of a shifting macroeconomic landscape, including inflation and a devalued currency in Nigeria, was met with enthusiasm by local millers.

The delegation's visit to flour mills, coupled with the millers' ongoing engagements with U.S. wheat producers, underscores the enduring partnership between the two regions.

"We’ve sold a lot of wheat from Kansas to Nigeria, but not in the last year and a half," noted Millershaski. Yet, the warm reception from Nigerian mills reaffirmed the value of these international relationships, critical for navigating economic volatilities and fostering mutual growth.

A particularly heartening moment occurred in Durban, South Africa, where the team, including Shawn Thiele from K-State’s IGP Institute, collaborated on technical assistance to enhance milling efficiency.

This initiative exemplifies USW's commitment to supporting the procurement and processing needs of wheat importers in Africa, especially those new to the industry.

As the Kansas farmers returned, their journey offered a broader perspective on the global wheat trade's intricacies and the collective effort to secure a prosperous future.

"It was so cool," Millershaski reflected, appreciating the mission's impact on both personal and professional levels. With spring awakening their wheat back home, the ties formed across continents foster hope for bountiful harvests and strengthened international markets.


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