Expectations were high as the 20th annual International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Middle East & Africa (MEA) District Conference & Expo returned to Turkey for the first time since 2000, when attendance records were set for the event.
The consensus among participants of the 2009 conference, which took place Oct. 23-26 in a resort area on the Mediterranean Sea near Antalya, Turkey, was that this year’s event met those lofty expectations with a strong educational program, vibrant trade show and numerous social networking events for the international flour milling community. A total of 621 delegates from 39 countries participated in the conference and expo, including 66 exhibiting companies from 16 countries.
"The event was a great success due to the diverse conference program and the exhibition hall that was full of enthusiastic exhibitors," said IAOM MEA District Director Merzad Jamshidi. "The district’s centralized conference organization, the entertainment programs during the dinners and their unique locations were also highly appreciated by the participants."
Because Turkey is one of the world’s top wheat flour producers and exporters as well as home to a number of companies that manufacture flour milling equipment, conference organizers anticipated a huge turnout from the host country. Nearly 180 millers and allied trades representatives from Turkey attended the conference, and Edip Aktas, secretary general of the Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TFIF), said at least that many more millers were on a waiting list to attend the event.
Because the event facilities could only hold a certain number of participants, organizers decided to limit the number of Turkish attendees so that the conference would maintain a diverse, international flavor. That goal was accomplished as representatives came from as far away as Bolivia and Indonesia.
Iran, another country with a thriving flour milling industry, was also well represented with 93 delegates from more than 40 milling companies.
Aktas said the TFIF wanted to do "something extraordinary" to make this year’s event a memorable one, so the organization invited Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to attend the conference.
Erdogan accepted the invite and delivered a speech inside a packed auditorium on the first day of the conference. He was joined by Turkey’s Minister of Agriculture, Mehmet Mehdi Eker, and Minister of Foreign Trade, Zafer Caglavan, who also gave brief speeches.
After the speech, Erdogan took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the expo.
"We believe the milling sector, not only in Turkey but all over the world, deserves this kind of a prominent event," Aktas said.
The always popular trading seminar, featuring presentations on the production and stocks situation from the world’s biggest wheat growing regions, highlighted the educational programming at this year’s conference.
The consensus among the featured speakers, which gave perspectives on the state of the wheat crops in the U.S., Canada, the E.U., Australia, Russia and the CIS countries, China and France, was that the global wheat supply, in the short term, should keep prices relatively stable. Production for 2009-10 is forecast at its second highest level ever with consumption increasing moderately.
Highlights from the presentations included:
- The U.S. reported its second highest wheat yield on record in 2009 and 60 million tonnes of overall production, below the prior year’s total of 68 million tonnes but well above the 55 million tonnes of production in 2007.
- Wheat production in the E.U. was estimated at 139.2 million tonnes for 2008-09 and projected at 129 million tonnes for 2009-10. The carryout in 2009-10 in the E.U. is anticipated at 19 million tonnes, the same as 2008-09 and a relatively high total compared to the annual carryout earlier this decade.
- Australia is estimating a 2009-10 wheat crop of 24 million tonnes, a second straight year of improvement after several drought-ravaged years.
- Canada’s 2009 crop is estimated at 22.3 million tonnes, below the 25.4-million-tonne output in 2008 but about equal to the 2004-08 average of 22.9 million tonnes.
The educational program also featured eight technical sessions focusing on a wide range of topics designed to help operational millers do their jobs more efficiently. Adding value with barley flour, food safety in flour milling, and assessing protein quantity and quality were among the technical papers presented.
The "What’s New?" program featured presentations on several new products including: Buhler’s Polaris purifier; Alapala’s Similago roller mill; Satake’s Al Phascan 11 high flow color sorter; Selis Makina’s Silvernox plansifter; Agromatic’s compact grain temperature monitoring cable; Chopin’s Infraneo NIR analyzer; and Clextral’s Evolum Rotante.
Also giving presentations were: Vigan Engineering on new developments in ship unloading technology; Tapco Inc. on maintaining non-metallic elevator buckets; American Soybean Association International Marketing on using soy flour in baking; Perten Instruments/Newport Scientific on high speed dough tests and flour blend modeling on doughLAB; Victam International on its new international flour milling and grain processing events; and the Flour Fortification Initiative on the new recommendations in wheat and maize flour fortification. All presentations from the conference are available on the IAOM MEA website ( ).
Reflecting on the technical education portion of the conference, IAOM President Ivo Klaric said in his opening remarks: "I always return from an IAOM meeting with a solution to a problem that enables me to save my company money, and I learn something along the way."
Jamshidi said beginning with next year’s conference in South Africa, the MEA plans to expand its educational program by adding seminars that focus more on management issues relating to the milling industry such as finance, human resources and safety.
"As the bulk of our participants are mill owners, the leadership council will present papers on employee management relations, cost management and energy management," Jamshidi said.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Because it was the 20th anniversary, many speakers reflected on the history of district meeting. In his opening speech, Jamshidi mentioned five "founding fathers" of the IAOM MEA district that deserved special recognition for helping the conference grow: Tim Burleigh, formerly of the Flour Fortification Initiative; Essa Al Ghurair of Al Ghurair Foods; Dick Prior of the U.S. Wheat Associates; Bachar Boubess, Modern Mills of Lebanon; Mohamad Mortazavi, Federation of Iranian Food Industry; and Nicolas Tsikhlakis, The Modern Flour Mills and Macaroni Factories Company.
Essa Al Ghurair was also presented with the Thaddeus B. Bownik Outstanding Service award for his longtime service to the organization.