Italian milling delegation tours U.S. wheat growing regions

by World Grain staff
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ARLINGTON, Virginia — Six representatives of Italy’s milling industry will be taking a tour of  Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota’s wheat growing regions Aug. 2 to 9 to investigate this year’s crop as part of a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) trade team. USW collaborated with the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council and the North Dakota Wheat Commission to organize this tour.  

Italy is Europe’s largest importer of U.S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat. The team members represent the next generation of Italian milling, who will eventually assume management and procurement responsibilities at their family owned mills. The team also includes a representative from the largest HRS broker in Italy. Participants will visit with wheat farmers, breeders, traders and export officials to gain a greater understanding of the U.S. wheat supply chain as well as how inspectors and exporters meet and monitor Italian specifications.  

“Teams like these demonstrate to Italian millers that U.S. HRS wheat is ideal for use in their products,” said Rutger Koekoek, marketing specialist based in the USW Rotterdam Office, who will travel with the team. “Combining technical information on the gluten strength of HRS and conversations with members of the entire U.S. wheat supply chain prove the U.S. HRS crop has the reliability, versatility and quality that these millers need year after year.”

In addition to flour for pizza crust, Italian millers look to U.S. HRS for high protein quality to produce flour for pandoro and panettone, two types of bread made and consumed around Christmas, as well as high loaf volume bread. The Italian milling industry is very quality conscious, but fiercely competitive. As a result, U.S. HRS often competes with lower-priced European origin wheat for Italian market share — a challenge that USW addresses by educating millers about the value of consistent U.S. HRS quality.

2014 European trade team members —

Giacomo Marani, manager, Molino sul Clitunno, Trevi, Perugia, Italy;

Moreno Marani, administrator, Molino sul Clitunno, Trevi, Perugia, Italy;

Francesco Vacondio, sales manager, Molini Industriali, Modena, Italy;

Stefania Dallagiovanna, laboratory director, Molino DallaGiovanna, Gragnano Trebbiense (Piacenza), Italy;

Paolo Dallagiovanna, accounting & administration, Molino DallaGiovanna, Gragnano Trebbiense (Piacenza), Italy;

Adele Aracri, grain broker/trader, Grain Services Reggio Emilia, Italy; and

Rutger Koekoek, marketing specialist, Rotterdam, U.S. Wheat Associates. 

Despite producing large amounts of both durum and “common” (everything that is not durum) wheat, Italy is the largest European wheat importer, purchasing between 5.2 million tonnes and 7 million tonnes each year. Italy is also the top European importer of U.S. wheat, including U.S. HRS.

Italian millers look to U.S. HRS for high protein quality to produce flour for pandoro and panettone, two types of bread made and consumed around Christmas, in addition to pizza and high loaf volume bread. The USW noted that the Italian milling industry is very quality conscious, but fiercely competitive.

Italian millers and bakers face growing cost pressures, especially since the economic crisis. Attributed to the economic crisis, the Italian Farmers’ Confederation reported that Italians spent an average of 12% less on food in 2013 than before the economic situation deteriorated in 2007. Additionally, Italians have significantly reduced the number of times they eat out in restaurants.

Because high protein wheat from Austria and Germany is often significantly cheaper than U.S. supplies, it competes effectively with U.S. HRS imports. But, European wheat lacks consistent high quality, so Italian millers routinely recognize the performance of U.S. HRS as more valuable than geographically closer European supplies. Italian millers also report more variability in Canadian spring wheat, sometimes even among the wheat in a single shipment, as well as lower gluten quality than U.S. HRS.

The USW European regional office in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, is responsible for carrying out activities in all countries of the European continent, Israel and the former Soviet Union. The region includes a sub-office in Moscow, Russia.

USW works directly with EU end-users and importers to help them deepen commercial links with U.S. export companies through trade servicing and technical assistance activities in Europe and by facilitating visits to the United States, like the one taking place this month. USW also keeps buyers regularly informed on the quality of all six classes of U.S. wheat, helping buyers understand the consistent high quality of U.S. wheat supplies.

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