Monthly Archives: January 2015

IAOM MEA celebrates 25th anniversary

Middle East and Africa District attracts more than 600 delegates from 45 countries to its annual conference  in Cape Town, South Africa.

The International Association of Operative Millers’ Mideast and Africa Conference (IAOM MEA) returned to Cape Town, South Africa to celebrate its 25th year Dec. 3-6, 2014. Over 600 delegates, exhibitors, and speakers came together from 45 countries during the three days to renew old ties, establish new relationships and to exchange the latest  information on technical developments in milling as well as data and trends in wheat markets.

South Africa’s National Chamber of Milling (NCM) hosted the event for the second time in just over four years. The first IAOM MEA in South Africa took place in 2010 shortly after the first World Cup in that country.

In his welcoming speech, NCM Chairman Peter Cook made particular note of the progress of flour fortification in Africa with 19 countries now mandating the public health intervention compared to just two countries, South Africa and Nigeria, 10 years ago.

25th Anniversary

The Middle East and Africa region continues to account for nearly half of the world’s trade in wheat at 73 million tonnes in 2013-14, according to the International Grains Council, and much of the global increase in milling capacity. On this basis, the IAOM MEA has not only proved sustainable but has grown substantially over the last quarter century.

Melinda Farris, IAOM executive director, presented plaques of recognition to four long-time members of the IAOM MEA Leadership Council who have led the transformation of their annual conference from a modest gathering of 25 or so millers and grain industry representatives 25 years ago in Cairo into one of the global wheat industry’s premier events. The four included District Director Ali Habaj of Oman Flour Mills; District Chairman Merzad Jamshidi; Essa Al Ghurair, Chairman of Al Ghurair Resources LLC; and Martin Schlauri of Bühler AG, Switzerland.

Jamshidi, who has played a vital role in the important participation of Iranian millers in the district over the years, identified as a major accomplishment “just the fact we have been able to consistently keep the events attractive for both the millers and suppliers. After all, 25 years is a quarter of a century. As for the future, we are trying to get more of the mills’ key personnel coming to the show with custom-made papers to serve their needs.”

Furthermore, the  event will “go to countries where traveling would be a bit easier and could act as a hub.”

The event’s formula for success includes its benefit to and support from major wheat exporters as expressed by Sean Cowman, regional manager – Middle East and Africa of CBH Group, a cooperative owned by 4,200 Western Australian grain growers. He noted that the conference “is a unique and invaluable link to industry stakeholders.” He said it provides the connection of “Australian grain from our growers to the end users in the Middle East and Africa. We enjoy seeing customers and industry colleagues at this unique and well organized event.”

Bühler’s Martin Schlauri offered his own vision for the future, saying the event “will remain a fixed date in the agenda of the milling executive. Building up sub-regions in MEA will bring the IAOM values and contribution even closer to the markets. This would allow to further focus on topics of specific regional interest, such as processing of maize or other grains.”

Schlauri predicts that as has happened in developed countries already, in the Middle East and Africa the grain processing industry will be challenged by changing consumer expectations and trends, such as food safety or GMO issues in the raw material. “These topics and more shall be on the agenda of the future IAOM MEA conferences,” he said.

Food Security

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) President Alan Tracy used his opening day address before key industry players from the world’s major wheat importing region to announce the launch of a major new food security initiative based on a proposed full liberalization of the world’s wheat trade. Such a measure would be the most effective way to provide “genuine food security to the world’s wheat importers.”

He pointed out that as the most important global food grain, wheat “provides 20% of the calories consumed every day on earth and 20% of the protein for the poorest half of human population. Demand is growing, but not every country that consumes wheat can produce wheat.”

The USW concept would be based on government-to-government sectoral agreements under the auspices of the World Trade Organization. “In exchange for eliminating tariffs, licenses and other trade barriers, the world’s wheat buyers would have guaranteed access to exportable wheat supplies even when world supplies are down.”

Trading Session

The emergence of the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions as origins for wheat to the region has been one of the biggest shifts in Middle East and Africa grain trade in the last quarter century. Indrek Aigro of Copenhagen Merchants, Denmark, pointed out that the eight countries of the Baltic Sea region have seen wheat exports rise from 9 million tonnes four years ago to an estimated 17 million tonnes in the current marketing year, accounting for much of the near doubling in net European Union wheat exports to 40 million tonnes in recent years.

Total Baltic Sea region wheat harvest will be 52 million tonnes, exceeding the previous record by 15%. Saudi Arabia and Iran have become the main destination of Germany and Poland’s milling wheat. The two countries now have exportable surpluses of about 11 million tonnes.

“Germany’s wheat is reaching many new markets because of the surplus,” said Aigro. That amount will be 7.5 million to 8 million tonnes. Eleven years ago, the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had no exportable surpluses, but now they are shipping out two-thirds of their production.

Andrew Vorland of Glencore Grain BV, Netherlands, surveyed the supply situation from the Black Sea, noting that the 35 million tonnes of wheat exports from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan this year will constitute 24% of world wheat exports.

“Black Sea wheat is moving to 100 countries these days,” he stated. Russia’s 6.2 million tonnes of wheat exports to Egypt and 3.6 million tonnes sent to Turkey account for 60% and 86%, respectively, of the wheat imports of the two countries.

Even South Africa, once dependent on the U.S. and Argentina, has become a major outlet for Russian wheat.

Jean-Pierre Langlois-Berthelot of France Export Cereales reminded the audience in his presentation that nearly 100% of his country’s wheat exports go to North African and West African countries, with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as the largest markets but growing volumes heading to the francophone countries of West Africa.

After Asia, the Middle East and Africa are the most important destinations for wheat exports from Australia, taking 40% of nearly 20 million tonnes in exports in the 2013-14 crop year with the trend lower this year. Nick Poutney, regional manager for Graincorp, Australia’s largest wheat exporter, explained that among the seven ports operated in the east of Australia by Graincorp, “each port zone has a specific supply and demand dynamic and quality parameters.” But this year all test weights are quite strong, he said.

Dan Basse, president of AgResource, Chicago, Illinois, U.S., in addition to moderating the trading session, provided his own animated and insightful prognostication for global grain markets in the coming years with statements such as: “We think the super cycle in agricultural commodities is kind of dead,” and that with the price of protein going up, “this is the year of species, not of grain.”

Exhibition

Ninety exhibitors from five continents and 20 countries were present at the trade show held jointly with the conference at the Cape Town International Convention Center. Turkey’s contingent of 23 exhibitors was the largest. Italy followed with 11 companies present.

A handful of firms have been present at nearly every IAOM. Ihsan Mustafa Aybakar commented, “As Aybakar, it is our 24th conference. It is not about business alone anymore. We all look forward to catch up with members of the industry. It is the biggest sectoral networking opportunity for the region. You get to meet mill owners, grain traders, equipment and service suppliers. We will be attending in the future.”

The largest groups of exhibitors were mill manufacturers, steel silo companies, and suppliers of flour additives such as enzymes and vitamin and mineral premixes for fortification.

Management Forum and Technical Sessions

During the first day’s session a series of world-class speakers challenged conventional management thinking and encouraged listeners to doubt their standard perceptions, explore the unknown and push for innovation in their approach to business.

The Technical & What’s New Session, taking up the entire second full day, provided a platform for 16 speakers to present the latest technological developments in all aspects of wheat milling. Jeff Gwirtz, president of JAG Services, Manhattan, Kansas, U.S., offered one of the three keynote speeches of the day, pointing out that in milling operations “problems may exist without you knowing it.” He described an approach relying on “the importance of checking and knowing your flour sheet to solve problems.”

Feed Milling

For the first time the conference featured a Feed Milling Technology and Trends Seminar, held on the third day. Diets in many of the countries of the region are improving to include more animal protein as economies develop and incomes rise. Many large wheat millers, most notably in Nigeria, have moved into the feed sector or are at least exploring opportunities.

African Milling School

Bühler’s Martin Schlauri as moderator of the management forum took the occasion to present Bühler’s own initiative to develop management skills in Africa by inaugurating its African Milling School in Nairobi after three years of planning and the construction of a building for that purpose at its milling service center. The first two courses are fully subscribed.

Schlauri has been named director of the school but will continue to  manage key account relationships. Noting the big increases in mill investment activity in the sub-Saharan region in recent years, Schlauri commented, “Africa is definitely on the move.”

FFI Workshop

The Flour Fortification Initiative (FFI) continued its long-running affiliation with IAOM MEA by holding a separate one-day workshop on Dec. 2 attended by about 60 public health officials, millers and NGO representatives.

FFI Director Scott Montgomery presented an FFI award recognizing the contribution of Abubakar Bakhresa, CEO of Said Salim Bakhresa & Co. Ltd., the largest milling company in Tanazania and East Africa, through its support since 2013 of national level mandatory vitamin and mineral fortification in Tanzania of all industrially produced wheat flour. Magdy Shehata of World Food Programme in Egypt received an FFI award as well in recognition of his six years of tireless work to institutionalize fortification of government-subsidized baladi bread.

IAOM MEA Dubai 2015

At the closing ceremony, Essa Al Ghurair, chairman of Al Ghurair Resources, Dubai, UAE, received the handover of the IAOM MEA District flag from Peter Cook. Organizers hope for a record turnout in late 2015 at the ever popular, thriving and business friendly air transportation hub where the event will be held for the fourth time.

Original PDF article as appeared in the World Grain magazine.