Recent political tensions in the Middle East failed to put a damper on the Association of Operative Millers' Middle East and East Africa District 16 meeting last month in Antalya, Turkey. The technical conference and trade show, held Oct. 9-11, drew nearly 600 participants from 36 countries, setting an attendance record for the district meeting that was nearly double last year's event in Amman, Jordan, organizers said.
As millers attended technical sessions and viewed new products at the trade show, tensions mounted nearby between Israel and Palestine and a U.S. naval ship in Yemen was bombed.
"In this day of globalization, we have to come together," said Ilker Tanik, chairman of the Turkish Milling Association, which hosted the meeting. "Politics and policies change day by day, but we as millers have to change our mentality. I hope that this conference is helping to promote proficiency, fellowship and cooperation for millers. The show must go on."
The Turkish milling group seized the chance to highlight Turkey's deep historical and cultural roots throughout the 3-day event. "Turkish Night" included Turkish musicians, dancers and a bazaar. U.S. Wheat Associates also sponsored a trip to the museum in Antalya.
"Many of the people I spoke with emphasized that this was the best A.O.M. district conference that they have ever seen," said M. Hikmet Boyacioglu, a professor of cereal science at the University of Istanbul, who assisted Mr. Tanik in organizing the district meeting.
Dr. Boyacioglu said that previous district meetings often had problems attracting people to the technical sessions, "since most people preferred to spend much of their time visiting the trade show."
This year, he said, "exhibitors were complaining that the people stayed at the conference hall to listen the presentations. This was really interesting. The conference room was full during all of the presentations. I think these millers realize the importance of the technical issues and feel the need to enhance their knowledge."
Kendall McFall, A.O.M. president for 2000-2001, commended the District 16 leaders for presenting a balanced program, with a wider scope and more variety than has been seen at the A.O.M.'s international conference in the United States.
Besides the usual wheat quality and technical papers, the technical sessions also included presentations on food safety and world health. "The role of the international miller is being challenged to be more than a technologist," Mr. McFall said. "They also must be a nutritionist, food scientist, cereal chemist and food and human safety officer."
Mr. McFall said the A.O.M.'s role is to be a facilitator or link between the miller and these various disciplines.
Topics at the technical sessions included differences in milling soft and hard wheat, the importance of break releases to the miller, food safety in the milling industry, and changing global consumption patterns in world wheat. A representative from the World Health Organization's regional office in Alexandria, Egypt, also spoke about the role of millers in combating iron deficiency anemia in the Middle East region through flour fortification (see related stories beginning on page 26).
Wheat quality outlook presentations were given by U.S., Canadian and Turkish wheat associations.
Technical papers included an interpretation of the Extensograph with dough and bread characteristics and quality requirements of durum wheat semolina for pasta making.
Mr. McFall said the A.O.M. must be more proactive in developing outreach to the millers not only in the Middle East and East Africa region but all over the world. He suggested more Internet-based offerings and perhaps locating an international staff member outside the U.S.
The A.O.M. also could benefit from having a more international focus at the general conference in the United States, he said, and could assist international members by offering translation and travel services.