I.M.A. invites millers from around the world to membership

by Teresa Acklin
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    The International Milling Association, which has only partly lived up to its name by having until now a membership exclusively of European millers and European national milling associations, has decided to become a truly global organization. In the wake of that decision, the I.M.A. has invited membership from milling associations around the world.

   This action, which was tentatively accepted by an I.M.A. general assembly held last November, was expected to be formally adopted at the association's Congress scheduled for May 16-18, 1994, in Florence, Italy.

   Invitations to join the I.M.A. have been sent to national flour milling associations in most major countries around the world. Early response indicates a wide variation in the level of interest in joining an association that has just decided to broaden its membership in this manner.

   The decision by the I.M.A. to expand its membership came in the wake of an internal debate as to the role of the association. On one side were those millers who questioned the wisdom of keeping the association going, even asking whether its activities should be wound down. The day was carried, though, by the millers, primarily from France, who believe that the I.M.A. has an important role to play, that it can be a real force for good in informing millers of developments around the world and that it could be especially helpful in the integration of milling from central and eastern Europe, as well as from Asia and Africa, into closer collaboration with the millers of western Europe.


   In discussing the rationale for this change, Pat Metaxa, the well-known British milling executive and immediate past president of I.M.A., underscored the value of the association as a forum for discussing milling issues of broad-scale importance. He cited such matters as wheat quality, genetic engineering, promotion programs for spurring consumption of flour-based foods and phyto-sanitary standards as issues that ought to be of concern to millers in every country.

   Acknowledging that the I.M.A. has been practically a closed shop since its founding in Paris in 1923, Mr. Metaxa said this was changing because of recognition that such an association needs a truly international membership — not just in name — in order to survive and prosper under current political and financial conditions. He added that the likely adoption of the Uruguay Round agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, with its focus for the first time on agricultural support and export subsidy issues important to millers, provided further impetus to the decision within the I.M.A. to reach out.

   Mr. Metaxa observed that the I.M.A. up to the time of World War II served primarily as a meeting ground for a few of the great personalities of European milling, particularly mill owners from Britain, France and the Low Countries. But as the industry evolved in the post-war world, where increasingly the ownership of milling was no longer in private hands but in public entities with professional managements, the role of the I.M.A. as a social meeting place for European millers and their wives tended to change. From the time when the formal program content was extremely limited to a decision to offer study papers of considerable interest to milling executives represents great change.


   The I.M.A., also known in French as the Association Internationale de Meunerie, has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, where its secretariat is located. The secretariat is headed by Alain Galaski. Membership is through national milling associations, and presently comprises the 12 member nations of the European Union along with the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), four of whom are negotiating to become members of the E.U.

   Present members of the E.U. are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. EFTA members are Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

   Mr. Metaxa, a director of Rank Hovis, the cereal milling operation of U.K.-based Ranks Hovis McDougall, retired as president of the I.M.A. at the end of 1993. The new president is Professor Luigi Costato, who also is president of the Italian flour millers' association. Professor Costato is chairman of Grandi Molini Italiani, a milling company headquartered in Rovigo.


   Mr. Metaxa, who had plans for a trip to southeast Asia when interviewed for this article, noted that he planned to take along promotion material inviting millers in that part of the world to consider I.M.A. membership for their national associations. At the very least, he said he would encourage attendance at the 1994 convention in Italy.

   “The basic mission of the I.M.A. would remain unchanged,” Mr. Galaski explained. “This would be to advance good relations between millers from different countries while facilitating contacts among millers, as well as the study and discussion of questions relating to the milling industry and its future.”

   Under the present plan, the I.M.A. will hold a major convention every other year. With a broadening of membership, the expectation is that the programming as well as opportunities for contacts will be greatly expanded. Convention programs will be aimed at senior management and will largely address management issues.

   “I.M.A. membership will offer a unique opportunity to participate actively in an ongoing dialogue and exchange of ideas between top professionals of the milling industry from all over the world,” Mr. Galaski said.

   Membership in the I.M.A. will also provide individual associations with access to several association publications. These include the I.M.A. Manual, which covers a broad range of subjects dealing with the wheat milling industry; individual reports by member associations on activities having to do with stimulating bread and flour consumption; and the annual I.M.A. Report incorporating information from national associations on flour production and trade, as well as brief reviews of the current state of the national milling industry.


   While the I.M.A. aims to be a true international association comprising membership of national associations, it also sees the opportunity for fostering regional organizations that would have limited and specific geographical coverage. It cites as an example G.A.M. or Groupement, the federation of national milling associations of E.U. member countries that represents flour millers in dealing with the regulations issued by the European Union and its executive body, the European Commission.

   Mr. Metaxa described the Groupement, which he also has headed, as a vitally important organization that plays a key role in lobbying the E.C. on serious issues affecting milling. Noting that the Groupement and the I.M.A. have usually had different presidents, he acknowledged the tension that could exist between the two organizations, especially when I.M.A. becomes “more international.” Competition between E.C. and U.S. millers for export markets could loom large in that arrangement, he noted.

   Even though the I.M.A. has in the past and will continue in the future to represent national milling associations, attendance at its conventions has been open to flour millers who wished to attend. At times in the past, U.S. milling executives have attended I.M.A. meetings, which usually have been held in quite attractive settings in Europe.

The International Milling Association current membership

European UnionEuropean Free Trade Association
Francethe NetherlandsIceland
IrelandUnited KingdomSweden

Europe, Italy and U.S. topics on I.M.A. Florence program

   The 1994 convention of the International Milling Association, with its secretariat in Brussels, Belgium, is scheduled for May 16-18 in Florence, Italy.

   The program for this year's meeting includes the following papers:

   • “Review of Plans for the New I.M.A.” — Pat Metaxa, immediate president.

   • “The Italian Milling Industry” — Professor Luigi Costato, president of I.M.A. and also of the Italian milling association.

   • “How to Make Flour Consumption Grow: The U.S. Model” — Morton I. Sosland, editor-in-chief, Milling & Baking News and World Grain, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.

   • “European Perspective on Current Milling Issues” — Jose Manuel Silva Rodriguez, director for organization of crop markets, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium.

   • “Key Issues in Wheat Growing in Europe” — Henri de Benoist, president, French Wheat Growers Association.