U.S. wheat exports are gaining entry into a former Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) stronghold, driven by a trio of activities conducted by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

Ecuador traditionally imported most of its wheat from Canada, primarily because the CWB, as a single desk seller, could offer favorable terms and preferential service to Ecuadorian buyers for its spring wheat. As a result, Ecuadorian millers preferred high protein wheat and were not familiar with the cost savings and quality improvement that is possible when wheat classes are blended.

But seeing opportunity when CWB lost its monopoly, USW combined funds from state wheat commission members and USDA’s Market Access Program to demonstrate the real benefits that U.S. soft red winter (SRW), hard red winter (HRW) and soft white (SW) wheat provide.

First, USW Milling Consultant Andrea Saturno held two-day technical sessions in May and June 2013 to demonstrate the value of milling SW wheat and the benefits of blending SW with HRS and HRW wheat as a replacement for Canadian Prairie Spring wheat.

In the growing Ecuadorian wheat foods market, bakers face significant competitive pressure. As a result, they are starting to demand the kinds of flour that will help them increase endproduct quality to meet the changing needs of more affluent consumers.

So, USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada conducted a two-day baking seminar in June 2013, demonstrating how millers can respond more effectively to their customers using blends of U.S. HRW and HRS.

Rosada showed that all of the breads made with U.S. wheat had superior volume and higher height compared to those made with Canadian wheat, which is an important distinction in the Ecuadorian market where volume is an indicator of quality. In addition, breads made with U.S. wheat had increased dough strength, superior crumb softness, more appealing crust color and a sweeter, more complex flavor.

Finally, USW brought a team of experienced Ecuadorian wheat buyers, who together directly purchase or influence the purchase of almost 71 percent of the country’s annual wheat imports, to Oklahoma, Kansas and Oregon in June 2013. This activity connected buyers with U.S. wheat growers, grain traders and federal grain inspection managers to demonstrate the advantages of the U.S. wheat marketing system, as well as the quality and diversity of U.S. wheat.

This activity took place at a time when funding for Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs was very uncertain — the result of delays in passing a new federal farm bill. So while USW conducted the work, most of the funding came directly from state wheat commissions in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with additional support from Oklahoma and Kansas. USW is especially happy to report that the payoff is already evident.

In marketing year 2012/13, Ecuador purchased 205,800 metric tons of U.S. wheat, valued at $56.73 million. That is a 52 percent increase compared to the year before. And, as of Feb. 1, 2014, Ecuador has already purchased 106,700 metric tons of U.S. wheat.