ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, U.S. — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) plans to close its office in Moscow, Russia, effective Oct. 1.
The closure represents part of an ongoing restructuring of overseas offices designed to refocus resources toward markets with the best potential to grow U.S. wheat exports and returns for the farmers USW represents. Based in part on the significant increase in low-priced Russian wheat exports, USW closed an office in Cairo, Egypt, in December 2017, that eliminated four staff positions.
The Moscow office closing will eliminate the position of office director and marketing specialist held by Valentina Shustova since 1995.
“After working continuously with the former Soviet Union since the mid-1970’s, we opened an office in Moscow in 1992 to work more closely with the newly independent Russian government and its budding private-sector industry that imported almost three million metric tons of U.S. wheat that marketing year,” said Vince Peterson, USW president. “Russian imports of U.S. wheat averaged close to 400,000 tonnes for the next ten years, most notably capped by a U.S. wheat donation program that helped shore up Russian domestic crop and economic hardships in 1998 and 1999. Since then, however, the country’s agriculture has changed to be more market oriented. As their domestic wheat production increased, our mission also shifted to monitoring this production as well as Russian wheat quality, prices and policy.”
Peterson said Shustova continued to report on domestic wheat quality and prices even as Russia gradually became a wheat exporting nation. This provided competitive perspective for U.S. wheat farmers and traders.
“With much more public information available about Russia’s wheat supply, we believe it is time to end our mission there and continue allocating more resources in markets where our export volume is growing,” said Mark Fowler, USW vice-president of Overseas Operations. “Russian wheat is obviously very competitive in certain markets, but it is important to point out that our marketing and technical teams based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Casablanca, Morocco, will continue competing for export business in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Russian-born U.S. citizen Nina Kostina was named office director when USW opened its Moscow office. She was replaced in March 1993 by Melanie Kowalski, also a U.S. citizen, who hired Russian national Shustova as an assistant in 1993. She has been the only USW staff in the Moscow office since 2002.
“As it was with our decision to close the Cairo office, this is a difficult choice because of Valentina’s dedicated service to U.S. Wheat Associates and the farmers we represent,” Peterson said. “She remained an active participant in the Russian grain industry and provided very relevant information and perspective on the amazing changes that have taken place there. We sincerely thank her for her commitment and we wish her the best of luck in the future.”