Gearing up for Beirut

by Meyer Sosland
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Organizers urge those interested in attending the 2006 IAOM Mideast & Africa District Conference and Expo to register early

by Arvin Donley

Organizers of the 18th annual International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Mideast & Africa District Conference and Expo in Beirut, Lebanon are urging those planning to attend this year’s event to register early.

Bachar Boubess, chairman of the conference, which will be held Nov. 5-8, 2006 at the Habtoor Grand Hotel Convention Center and Spa, said the number of attendees will be limited, so early registration is recommended.

Last year’s conference in Marrakech, Morocco drew nearly 1,000 participants, but the record turnout, which included many last-minute registrants, caused some logistical problems.

"We’d like to have 2,000 people in Lebanon, but we just can’t handle that many," said Boubess, who works for the Operative Flour Mills of Lebanon.

Registration for the Mideast & Africa conference opened in early June, and Boubess said organizers are expecting to reach the registrant limit by the end of July. To register, visit The main IAOM web site ( and the World Grain web site ( also have links to the IAOM Beirut web page.

This year’s conference will once again feature a trade show. In May, at the IAOM Conference and Expo in Austin, Texas, U.S., Boubess said about 80% of the 80 to 90 exhibition booths had been booked for the conference and about 50% of the educational program was set. Boubess said the program will feature technical presentations from a number of milling industry equipment suppliers. Also, representatives from various countries will engage in a panel discussion on wheat quality.

"That is something new that we’re going to try," Boubess said. A complete list of educational program speakers will be published in the August issue of World Grain.

"We also have expanded the spouse program," he said. "We want them to get a chance to see our part of the country," Boubess said.

Beirut, which last hosted the Mideast & Africa conference in 1994, has a population of 1.2 million and is located along the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mideast & Africa District Conference is expecting participants from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region. That’s because millers from that region want to see how the highly successful Mideast & Africa conference operates before they host the inaugural IAOM Eurasia District Conference and Expo Nov. 10-12 in Istanbul, Turkey.

"The Mideast & Africa district is the model district for us," said Viorel Marin, president of the Romanian National Association of Flour Milling and Baking Industries. "We will see how it is run and then go to Istanbul and take what we’ve learned and try to set up our district."

Marin said his association learned about the IAOM several years ago through several contacts, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Flour Fortification Initiative and UNICEF. In June 2005, Marin traveled to London to speak with IAOM Executive Vice-President Gary Anderson at an FFI meeting. He then attended the Mideast & Africa District Conference in Marrakech, Morocco in September 2005, and began working with the IAOM staff on creating an IAOM district in his region.

IAOM is attempting to create a Eurasia District that includes parts of central and eastern Europe as well as central Asia. It will attempt to draw membership from countries such as Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Russia, Mongolia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

Marin said having IAOM’s presence will help flour millers in that region get more in tune with the international milling industry.

"I think IAOM can have a very positive impact on the milling industry in our region," Marin said. "We feel desperately the need to speak the same language in the industry: to have the same product standards, occupational standards and training standards as other parts of the world."

He said the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and UNICEF are offering financial assistance for the first-year conference. Final details about the Eurasia conference, including registration and hotel information, will be available at the end of June, Marin said.