WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The Taiwan Flour Mills Association (TFMA) will sign a letter of intent to purchase up to 62.5 million bushels (1.7 million tonnes) of U.S. wheat over two years between 2012 and 2013 in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sept. 20, U.S. Wheat Associates said on Sept. 15.

The signing ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center kicks off Taiwan’s eighth Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission to the U.S. since 1998. TFMA will then continue its part of the mission with visits to Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho to meet with state wheat commission and government representatives before returning to Taiwan Oct. 4.

USW President Alan Tracy and TFMA Executive Director I-Tsung Chen will co-sign the letter. Tracy said the U.S. wheat industry is very pleased that TFMA is willing to make its intentions public.

“The partnership between Taiwan’s millers and U.S. wheat producers is enduring and very successful,” Tracy said. “In fact, Western Wheat Associates, one of the legacy organizations to U.S. Wheat Associates, opened the first overseas marketing office in Taipei in 1966.”

TFMA imports wheat on behalf of all 26 Taiwanese flour mills and has purchased about 450 million bushels of U.S. wheat worth more than $2.5 billion since 1998. On average over the past five years, Taiwan has imported about 33 million bushels (910,000 tonnes) of U.S. wheat each year. That amount represents about 80 percent of its imported wheat needs. This includes an average of 20.1 million bushels of hard red spring (HRS), 8.8 million bushels of hard red winter (HRW) and 3.9 million bushels of soft white (SW). Heavy use of HRS reflects a need for strong gluten flour for breads, rolls and frozen dough products as well as for blending with HRW flour to make traditional Chinese flour foods and noodles. Soft white imports, including western white, help meet growing demand for cake, cookie and pastry flours.

USW Country Director Ron Lu and his Taipei-based staff have an excellent working relationship with TFMA and the Taiwan baking industry. For example, together with other U.S. agricultural export development organizations, USW is conducting a healthy bread promotion there through the U. S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service's Global Broad-Based Initiative program. Interest in whole wheat products is also growing in Taiwan. USW is providing technical assistance and education to millers and bakers to help them produce better quality, better tasting whole wheat products. In fact, Taiwan’s government is relying on USW to help establish national standards for whole wheat flour and baked goods, and asked TFMA and USW to help design a program encouraging Taiwan consumers to eat whole wheat products daily.