“Closing our Cairo office was a difficult decision because it affects four colleagues who have been very dedicated to our mission for many years,” said Vince Peterson, president of USW. “The closure is most certainly not a reflection of our very good staff, as they have remained committed and hardworking even though the market dynamics of the region have changed. Everyone in our organization thanks them for their service and wishes them all the best in the future. USW is now working through the process to help with these transitions.”
Peterson said USW saw a need to begin adjusting its activities in the Middle East and North Africa several years ago as the supply of significantly lower priced wheat from Russia increased. The organization eliminated a Cairo-based marketing position in 2014. This allowed USW to add an experienced technical specialist in its Casablanca, Morocco, office. In 2016, USW shifted regional management for the Middle East operations to its office in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
As recently as the 2012-13 market year, Egypt, the No. 1 importer of wheat in the world, was the No. 5 market for U.S. wheat overall and the No. 2 buyer of U.S. soft red winter (SRW) wheat, grown in the southern and midwestern U.S. By the time the 2016-17 marketing year ended on June 1, Egypt had fallen to the No. 37 buyer of U.S. wheat overall, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Peterson noted that USW will continue to provide trade service to government wheat buyers in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region on a targeted basis.
“Our colleagues in Rotterdam and Casablanca will also promote U.S. high performance hard wheat classes and soft wheat classes in specific markets,” Peterson said. “This includes private buyers, millers and food companies that serve a growing demand for higher value bread products, cakes and confectionery products in the Middle East. In addition, these changes will help us increase future marketing capabilities in higher value Asian and Latin American markets.”