IAOM Eurasia district meeting

by Meyer Sosland
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IAOM Eurasia district meeting

By David McKee

Almaty, the economic hub of wheat and flour exporting powerhouse Kazakhstan, was the site of the second annual International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Eurasia District Conference. Industry representatives from 25 countries attended the event, held Oct. 31-Nov. 3. The new district drew millers from a diverse array of countries, ranging from Romania to Mongolia, and Russia to Afghanistan.

While participation is open to all comers, the still embryonic Eurasia District is defined primarily as countries of the former Soviet Union, including the former Central Asian republics. It also has targeted the milling industry in the countries of southeastern Europe. Turkey with its central location, large internationally oriented milling industry, and numerous equipment manufacturers plays a special role in the new district. Istanbul, Turkey hosted the inaugural Eurasia District Conference last year.

The first day’s session’s included the "What’s New" presentations from Buhler, Chronos Richardson and Fischbein. The main program included papers on various aspects of wheat flour milling but also featured talks on processing of bulgur and barley extrudates.

A trade show with about 25 industry exhibitors from eight countries ran concurrently to the conference. Nine Turkish companies, for whom Central Asia is a key market, understandably formed the largest national contingent.

Among the new countries to participate in the district were Afghanistan and Mongolia. Its strong historical and economic ties to the former Soviet Union and current wheat and wheat flour trade with Russia and Kazakhstan make Mongolia a natural for the district.

Dr. Rentsen Batmend, president of Mongolia’s Grain Processing Association, reported that Mongolia’s 2.95 million people consume 240,000 tonnes of wheat flour per year despite the absence of significant wheat cultivation in one of the world’s harshest climates. Almost all wheat used by Mongolia’s millers is imported. However, they produce just one third of the total wheat flour its people consume.

Afghanistan, the southernmost country of Central Asia, depends partially on Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan for its wheat and flour. The Afghanistan delegation included grain traders and the owners of recently established industrial mills, the first to be built in the country in decades.

In the opening day’s session, Yevgeny Gan, president of the League of Grain Processors and Bakers of Kazakhstan, the main host organization for this year’s event, talked about his country’s dynamic grain industry. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Agriculture tentatively projected the country’s 2007 wheat harvest at 16.6 million tonnes in late November. The country’s exports of wheat and wheat flour in wheat equivalent have jumped to 12 million tonnes in the first 9 months of 2007.

In 2007, Kazakhstan exported 45% of its wheat flour production. The country’s wheat flour exports reached 1.35 million tonnes, ranking it number two in the world. Actual flour leaving the country is much more due to porous borders in the south.

Uzbekistan has been the country’s largest market, but Afghanistan’s imports have increased to 12% of the total. China has also recently become an important Kazakhstan flour customer.

Bucharest, Romania will host next year’s IAOM Eurasia District Conference as the event moves back to Europe. Romania is the largest country in southeastern Europe.

David McKee is a grain industry consultant providing market research and other services to companies seeking to initiate business in new markets. He can be reached by e-mail at davidmckee59@msn.com.