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Released: March 24, 2005

Hard White Wheat Production at Crossroads in United States: K-State IGP Conference Highlights Issues

MANHATTAN, Kan. - When it comes to hard white wheat production in the United States, two key ingredients are still missing: a consistent supply and a liquid market, according to speakers at a recent Kansas State University conference.

From K-State’s Hard White Wheat Export Conference

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State University’s International Grains Program teamed with U.S. Wheat Associates to hold a Hard White Wheat Export Contracting Conference and Trade Show March 14-16. In attendance were speakers and participants from 12 states and Egypt, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and South Africa. Following are some of the speakers’ comments:

Florentino Policarpio, vice president for flour business, San Miguel Pure Foods, Philippines – Philippines ranked No. 8 among the top 10 customers for U.S. wheat with 1.2 million metric tons in 2004. The predominate wheats used are spring and soft cultivars, but changes are occurring. With a 70 percent market share, San Miguel is the leader in instant noodle flour production. It currently buys hard white wheat from Australia, but sees opportunities for U.S. HW wheat.

Ron Stoddard, executive director, Nebraska Wheat Board, and chairman of the Hard White Wheat Advisory Council – To reach critical mass in hard white wheat production will take (1) fully funding the 2005 crop year with the Hard White Wheat Incentive Program and continuing the program for another three years; (2) encouraging country elevators to be enthused participants and partners along with the producer; and (3) development of public and private varieties that must be equal to or out-yield the best varieties of competing wheat classes.

Terry Garvert, Specialty Food Grains team leader, Cargill – The biggest problem is not that there’s not a market for it. It’s the supply. Obstacles to developing a viable U.S. hard white wheat export program are the lack of a consistent sizeable crop and unsuccessful management of cross contamination between white and red wheat. You shouldn’t think about putting hard white wheat in the ground unless you’ve talked to your elevator about how you’re going to handle it.

Bonnie Fernandez, California Wheat Commission – Hard white wheat is not new to importing countries. Australia has shipped HW wheat to 84 countries over the past four marketing years. The U.S. wheat industry should ban the phrase “But we’ve always done it this way.” Perhaps we cannot always assume that we can push a product through the marketing chain. Perhaps we should try to engage the full marketing chain to help pull the product through.

"We've got people interested, but there isn't a consistent supply," said Seaboard Corp.’s Roy Loepp, referring to overseas buyers and U.S. hard white wheat. Hard white wheat production in the United States needs to reach "a critical mass point where it becomes a consistent part of the landscape."

Loepp, who is the quality director of milling operations at Seaboard, was speaking at the K-State International Grains Program’s Hard White Wheat Export Contracting Conference and Trade Show, held March 14-16 on the Manhattan campus. The conference, also sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates, brought together producers, grain handlers, domestic and export wheat buyers, and flour millers to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

Despite overseas buyers’ strong interest in hard white wheat for such products as noodles, tortillas and breads, the United States continues to produce much more hard red winter and other types of wheat than it does hard white wheat, said Mark Fowler, IGP miller and conference coordinator.

Hard white wheat production in Kansas this year is estimated to be about 5 percent of total state wheat production, with hard red winter wheat making up the rest of the crop, said David Frey, administrator of the Kansas Wheat Commission.

U.S. hard white wheat production this year is an estimated 1.01 million metric tons, said Ron Stoddard, executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board. That compares with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimate of 2004 hard red winter wheat production at 23 million metric tons.

Kansas-based Seaboard is widely known as a hog production company, Loepp said, but it has a long history in the milling industry. He listed several factors that would help the U.S. wheat industry expand HW wheat production, including:

  • Promoting white wheat to make it safer for millers to gain experience with it;
  • Having enough varieties that will work year in and year out; and
  • Proliferating performance data so everyone in the marketing chain has a better understanding of what he or she is growing, buying and selling.

Kelly Spitzer of Tempel Grain Company said five of Tempel’s 11 elevators in southeastern Colorado will handle hard white wheat this year. Spitzer is the vice president and grain merchandiser at Tempel, which is based in Wiley, Colo. Two of its locations (in Towner and Sheridan) will be devoted to hard white wheat only, while its elevators in Haswell, Wiley and Springfield will take in HW wheat and others. Tempel will take steps to segregate the HW wheat from other cultivars.

"We've made this commitment to the producers in the area," she said, adding that Trego, a variety of hard white wheat, has outperformed some types of hard red winter wheat in recent Colorado trials. Southeast Colorado has a fairly arid climate that averages 11 to 12 inches of rain annually.

Tempel is looking to California and Mexico as its best market prospects, Spitzer said.

Keys to success for HW wheat are a liquid market, competitive yields and incentives for growers, she said. “What growers want is to be able to call up an elevator or mill at any time and get a bid.”

Trego was developed by wheat breeder Joe Martin at K-State’s Agricultural Research Center at Hays. It is the most widely used hard white wheat variety in the country, said Frey of the Kansas Wheat Commission. The KWC has supported hard white wheat research at K-State for 20 years.

“Hard white wheat enhances the strength of the U.S. in the world wheat market,” said Seaboard’s Loepp. “Some synergies will be realized with hard red winter wheat and perhaps with northern spring or even other commodities.”

Seaboard needs a minimum of 8,100 metric tons or 300,000 bushels at one time to put together shipments, he said, adding, “If we don’t do it (expand HW wheat production), others will and U.S. strength in the market will be diminished.”

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K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Mary Lou Peter
mlpeter@oznet.ksu.edu
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Mark Fowler at K-State’s IGP is at 785-532-1189 or mfowler@wheat.ksu.edu ; David Frey at the Kansas Wheat Commission is at 785-539-0255