The ‘Manila Five’ Buy 100% U.S. Wheat
There are five mills on the river system near Manila that band together to purchase wheat. They work together so they can buy enough volume to order their own freight ship. And together, they buy about 500,000 tons a year. They want their own ship so they can spec 100% U.S. origin, including two types of soft white: high and low protein. RFM Corporation, the purchasing arm for the five mills, was the first mill to open in the Philippines and hasn’t changed its contract specs much over the last 10 years because U.S. wheat has been very consistent.
“The quality and logistics of the U.S. — if the weather is good — is like clockwork,” Stephen Uy said. He runs the flour division for RFM. The company started using SRC (solvent retention capacity) in 2018 with the help of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical staff. In addition, the USW crop quality report allows them to better adjust the grist for the new crop year.
“What we need is help marketing U.S. as the standard, that it’s really safe,” says Uy. The mills need help reaching the craft bakers and getting them to understand where their wheat comes from is important.
In order to spark interest and connect employees to finished products, RFM Corporation runs a recipe contest where the mill’s employees are challenged to be creative and allow them to visualize how the ingredients will become wheat-based products.
Because of the shortage of bakers who understand the science behind the craft, RFM also runs three, two-week baking courses with Manila-based chef Vanessa Pallagud. Baking students make their own recipe formulations, and USW technicians are the judges. The judging score cards were originally developed by USW for the Washington Grain Commission 60th Anniversary cake competition in 2016.
Helping Home Bakers Modernize
Home bakers make up half (50%) of the industry. The Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. (FCBAI) Training Center runs 25 courses that range from bread and pastry to bakery management. They are a primary source of education, and USW teaches the FCBAI bakery science courses. The “old ways” of baking are still prevalent, which involves eyeball measuring and no recordkeeping or inventory management. FCBAI helps commercial bakers evolve to weight-based measurements and adopt business management best practices and automation.
This article was originally published in June 2023 as part of the Washington Grain Commission’s Milling and Baking Expert Profile Series in Wheat Life Magazine . The series features technical experts from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) who are stationed around the world and provide customer service, consulting and education for the companies that import U.S. wheat. USW is the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry.