International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Latin American District leaders who believed that moving their annual meeting closer to home would boost attendance were rewarded for their idea as more than 100 delegates — the largest turnout in recent memory — attended the meeting which was held Nov. 8 at the Sheraton Libertador Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The meeting had always been held in North America in conjunction with the annual International IAOM Conference & Expo, but attendance dropped significantly in recent years as many Latin American mill owners began to question the costeffectiveness of the long trip. So this year the event was organized to take place in conjunction with the Latin American Industrial Millers (ALIM) Conference, which was held Nov. 9-11 at the Sheraton Libertador.
IAOM President Ivo Klaric, who attended the meeting, said this year’s event had three "firsts."
"I’m the first Latin American president in the 113 years of IAOM, this is the first time IAOM and ALIM have held this event together, and it is the first time both organizations held their annual meetings in Argentina," Klaric, a native of Bolivia who works for Cargill-Horizon Milling in Canada, told World Grain.
The organizers were pleased with the results of the change of venue. "I’m proud that we had such high attendance, and I have no doubt that this was due in large part to our cooperation with ALIM — a relationship that we hope will continue to grow in the future," added Melinda Farris, executive vicepresident of IAOM.
Argentina President Cristina Fernández attended the event and noted that in 2009 "the Argentine milling industry had its best performance in the last five years."
She also emphasized the diversification of the country’s domestic milling industry. "There are three or four leaders, but there are about 140 small and medium-size companies that represent 67% of the milling industry’s activity."
Also at the inauguration, Alberto España, president of the Argentine Milling Industry Federation (FAIM), expressed optimism about the industry’s future. "This has been a very good year, and we can foresee a positive overview for 2010."
He also mentioned the agreement the Argentine government and the local cereal exporters signed the previous week, which will allow producers to cash its grain to full price within the local market conditions.
The overall attendance for both events (ALIM and IAOM) was more than 600, with 103 from IAOM and about 500 from ALIM. "We are very happy with these results, and therefore we plan to hold the next annual meeting in Latin America, in Cartagena, Colombia," said Klaric.
The 2010 IAOM Latin America and ALIM meetings are tentatively scheduled for next fall, Farris said.
MILLING EQUIPMENT MANUFACTUERS PLEASED
Those who supply equipment and services to the milling industry that attended the meeting said they were pleased that it was held in South America.
Ada Benitez of Italy-based GBS Group said the IAOM made the right decision in joining ALIM for this event because "the Latin American market is in expansion."
Alejandro Karlen of Germany-based Fawema, which manufactures flour packaging equipment, said he was pleasantly surprised by the success of the meeting.
"We’ve been present in IAOM meetings in several places, but doing this meeting in Latin America was a great opportunity for new business," Karlen said.
The delegates in attendance were also happy about the location of this year’s event.
"This was an excellent chance for networking with Latin American consumers and getting some face-to-face time with our clients," said Thomas Knaack, merchandising manager, export wheat, for U.S.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.
Many of the companies present at the expo took the opportunity to show their latest products and projects. Mill Service, an Italian milling equipment manufacturer, exhibited in its booth a model of the mill the company is constructing in San Salvador de Tucumán, Argentina.
Mill Service President Orazio Gobbo said the production capacity would be 300 tonnes per day at the new mill, and it would have the capacity to store up to 30,000 tonnes of wheat. The executive said the mill, which is scheduled to begin operating by 2010, would be the company’s first project in Argentina, although it is in negotiations with clients from Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia and Venezuela.
Gobbo said Latin America represents 20% of the company’s business and that the continent has great potential for milling equipment manufacturers because of the potential for technological conversion and new plant inaugurations.
Benítez agreed, noting that "the future in Latin American milling is in the reconversion of the existing technology. Millers can replace equipment — all at once or in stages — or increase their production capacity."
Mauro Righetti, president of Italian packaging machines manufacturer Ital-Pack, which had a booth at the exhibition, said the company has always participated in IAOM conferences, but this was the first time it participated in an ALIM event. "We are very hopeful we will get results from it," he said.
As always, the IAOM meeting featured an educational program with a series of lectures to provide education and training opportunities for millers.
Farris, who aside from being IAOM executive vice-president is also on the board of the Flour Fortification Initiative, gave a presentation on the effort to fortify flour worldwide.
"Nearly every country in South, Central and North America requires fortification of at least one kind of wheat flour," she said. "And some millers here in South America do more than the law requires."
Farris described the importance of folic acid, especially for pregnant women, given that it greatly reduces the occurrence of neural tube birth defects.
"Fortifying flour with folic acid is one of the best ways to help women get enough of this vitamin in a timely fashion," said Farris. "In Chile, 17 out of every 10,000 children were born with birth defects before the fortification program began. After fortification, the rate was 10 per 10,000 births."
Similar improvements have occurred in the U.S., Canada and Costa Rica after they began flour fortification with folic acid, she said.
Also during the educational session, milling industry representatives from various Latin American countries gave wheat production and demand reports. Juan Possenti of Venezuela affirmed that Venezuela imports 100% of its wheat to meet domestic demand. During 2008, 61% of its wheat was from the U.S. and 35% from Canada.
Likewise, the Dominican Republic reported that all of its wheat was also imported and came almost entirely from the U.S.
Alejandro Daly from the Peruvian National Society of Industries said that during 2009 about 87% of the Peruvian wheat supply came from imports, with 37% coming from Canada, 31% coming from Argentina, 20% being imported from the U.S., 8% from Russia and 3.7% from other countries.
Cristina Kroll is a freelance writer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She can be reached at