The annual conference and trade show for the Association of Operative Millers’ Middle East and East Africa District is always an eagerly awaited networking and learning opportunity for both millers and suppliers.
"No other meeting in the region combines the latest in machine technology, future flour milling developments and services, in addition to advice from the world’s wheat suppliers and brokers," said Ian Watson, conference chairperson and site manager at Oman Flour Mills Company, Ruwi, Oman.
The district’s 13th conference will be held in Oman, Oct. 8-10 at the Al-Bustan Palace Hotel located near the capital, Muscat.
"Due to the geographical spread of the district, it is the only time of the year that the millers’ representatives can get together and it is also the one time that the major grain suppliers and major equipment suppliers are simultaneously available," Watson explained. "While it is true that communications between all parties have never been simpler nor better, the shear volume and variety of inputs at these annual district meetings make them invaluable for the supplier and customer alike."
Conference attendance within this district averages 200 people, except when the event is held in a country with a large flour milling base, such as Egypt or Turkey, he explained. Nearly 180 people have already signed up to attend this year’s conference, and Watson expects a total of 220 by early October.
"This is a good response for a country with only two flour mills and a population of 2 million," he said.
He added that last year’s conference in Antalya, Turkey, which drew nearly 600 participants, was a reflection of the size of the flour milling industry and the equipment manufacturing base in Turkey. "The trade show was extremely large and the Turkish organizations accounted for a substantial proportion of the participants," Watson said. "The conference was able to provide simultaneous translation facilities, which also attracted a great many Turks who would not otherwise attend this function."
The conference’s core is the technical presentations reflecting the industry’s range of concerns, from grain markets to quality issues to technological advances. Also, a "What’s New?" presentation will highlight advances in milling equipment or processes.
Technical sessions will run daily from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will be presented in English. At press time, the program was still being finalized.
"The topics will be varied — as we have come to expect from this district’s conferences — with analyses of grain futures, wheat market developments, implications of the biotechnology evolution, innovative milling technology, flour fortifications and flour improvers," Watson said.
The district also is hoping to organize a session on the first day of the conference to allow the World Health Organization, in conjunction with the Micronutrient Initiative, to address the issue of flour fortification in the region, he said.
The trade show, to be held in the Al Bustan’s Bosher Room, adjacent to the conference, will feature 26 suppliers ranging in services from exports, milling equipment, flour additives and packaging, unloading and conveying equipment.
Laidig Industrial Systems, Mishawaka, Indiana, U.S., will be exhibiting at the AOM Middle East/East Africa conference for the first time. John Houin, international sales director, said the company wants to introduce its silo unloading equipment for semi- or non-free-flowing materials to this market, and added that this conference seemed like a good place to start.
"Our services are not only solving existing problems, it’s also changing a customer’s paradigm of thinking," Houin said. "We are trying to bring our philosophies to the Middle East and East Africa."
The trade show will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day of the conference.
Watson said he also was looking forward to the gathering of peers at the upcoming event. The district includes members from not only the Middle East and countries on the East Coast of Africa, but also in the sub-continent region, including India and Pakistan.
"Our conference continues to offer unparalleled opportunities for networking with key personnel from flour milling, grain trading, equipment suppliers and allied services," Watson said. "Our district already encompasses a diverse geographical and cultural area, and this year we are especially pleased to open our arms a little further in welcoming participants from India and Pakistan."
Participants are looking to see something different, he said, "to hear something new, to be stimulated, to assuage doubts, to meet new friends, to re-establish old friendships, to make business, to learn and hopefully enjoy."