WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) said on April 26 that it is bringing five Japanese milling executives to the U.S. April 29 to May 5, as part of an annual educational tour.

In visits to Washington, D.C., California and Oregon, these executives will learn how the U.S. wheat production, milling and baking industries are managing risk and finding innovation in a challenging economic environment. They will also gain first-hand knowledge of new crop wheat conditions and discuss issues affecting overall wheat supply and demand.

“Team visits like this give these executives more access to key contacts and a better understanding of what is happening in the U.S. industry,” said USW Japan Country Director Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya who will lead the team. “Seeing how wheat quality is controlled from the field to storage to market is very helpful when their managers bring up issues about our wheat.”

Building relationships and awareness will be even more important in the future, Utsunomiya said, because Japan is moving steadily toward a wheat importing system that will facilitate direct purchases between the Japanese grain trade and flour millers with less involvement by the government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

USW organized this year’s trip in collaboration with the California Wheat Commission, Oregon Wheat Commission, North American Millers’ Association, the North American Export Grain Association and other industry organizations.

U.S. wheat farmers have maintained a close connection with Japan since 1949, when the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) organized a trade delegation to Japan. Following that trip, a variety of marketing and educational activities were started in Japan to promote U.S. wheat, including a school lunch program and a “Kitchen on Wheels” that travelled through rural Japan from 1956 to 1960.

Since that time, Japan has purchased significantly more U.S. wheat than any other country, importing more than 133 million bushels per year on average for the last five years. Total U.S. wheat purchases now conservatively reach $700 million per year, more than 10% of total U.S. wheat exports. Japan imports significant amounts of hard red spring, hard red winter, soft white and Western White wheat to produce bread, noodles, confectionery items and other commercial products.

USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. USW activities are made possible through producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.