IAOM Tehran Meeting Review

by World Grain Staff
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by David McKee

All sorts of records were broken at the 16th Annual International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Middle East and Africa District Conference and Trade Show, which took place from October 4th to 7th in Tehran, Iran. Superbly organized by the Federation of the Iranian Associations of the Flour Milling Industry, the event attracted an unprecedented 950 participants to the modern and high-tech IRIB International Conference Center on the northern edge of the metropolis of 14 million. The number of trade show exhibitors for the three days also surpassed all previous years, with over 50 companies and organizations represented and several others having been turned away when the available space filled up early.

While the host country’s large and vibrant milling industry accounted for over two thirds of the attendance, 350 people from 34 other countries came as well. Neighboring Turkey’s mills and equipment suppliers sent the largest contingent with 59 and Egypt the next most with 29. Thanks to their high profile in Iranian mills and in grain and nutrition related government agencies and research centers, there were 120 women, more than ever before, to listen to presentations by milling experts from five continents.

In his opening day remarks, Abulfazl Ahmadkhanlou, president of the Federation of the Iranian Associations of Flour Milling Industries, stressed that the main challenge faced by Iran’s 300 milling companies is to improve the quality and nutritional value of their product. This in part explains the Federation’s enthusiasm to host this year’s IAOM Conference. The average Iranian consumes 120 kg to 150 kg of wheat per year, one of the highest totals for any country.

Up to half of the 12 million tonnes of wheat required by the country’s nearly 80 million people was imported in the past. However, Iran has made big strides in wheat production, and achieved self-sufficiency in the past year. But there is still a need to import up to 2.5 million tonnes of high quality wheat for blending. Furthermore the capacity of the country’s milling industry at 20 million tonnes per year is only 50% utilized meaning that mills must learn to compete on quality.

Papers at the conference covered the latest developments in flour milling technology, from grain storage and handling through every step of the milling process to bagging and flour correctors and improvers. At the request of the organizers the audience was treated to a discussion of flour fortification (see box on page 26) from many angles. Of the 25 presentations in the total speakers program of 560 minutes 40% was devoted to fortification.

On the final day of the conference the Iranian organizers passed the baton to Ahmed Bouiada, President of the Federation Nationale de la Minoterie du Maroc, the millers association in Morocco that will host next year’s event from September 25 to 27 in Marrakech. Complete information about that event will be available in December 2004 at www.aommarrakech.com. A goal of next year’s conference is to significantly increase participation by African millers, especially from French-speaking countries. To this end, plans have already been made to provide simultaneous interpretation of the speeches into French as well as Arabic. WG

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.

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