On Tuesday morning, a group of trading partners from Nigeria and South Africa visited Mark Knobel’s wheat farms south of Daykin to learn more about how wheat is produced in Nebraska.
Rick Larson, who serves on the Nebraska Wheat Board, explained that this visit, which includes a total of five states, was organized as a way to forge strong relationships with international wheat partners.
“Fifty percent of the wheat we grow in the United States, we export,” said Larson. “When we talk about half of our wheat being exported, meeting with these trade teams is critically important. Visiting with people like Mark is really critical because they are ones working hard every day to produce the wheat that is being exported. This is a people business.”
Gerald Theus, with the U.S. Wheat Associates located in South Africa, explained that he and the other representatives are working to expand their opportunities for agricultural trade.
“Since we don’t buy or sell wheat, U.S. Wheat Associates’ goal is to create, expand and maintain export markets for wheat producers in the United States,” said Theus “We want to promote wheat and expand those markets in these countries. In a country like Nigeria, we went from 0 to 95 percent of the market, and Nigeria has 140 million people. The most important thing that we do as a trade team is talk to producers and building those relationships.”
The trade team will also visit locations in Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Minnesota. Larson and Theus emphasized the benefits of forging these relationships to help the agricultural economy and to help local producers. The trade team is comprised of representatives from the second largest milling company in the world, Flour Mills, located in Nigeria.
“We have a hard time because we’re competing with the Russians, the Australians, the Canadians, the Germans,” Theus said. “We have a whole lot of competition out there. We’ve maintained dominance in the market because we’re able to maintain good relationships. We have offices around the world in Japan, South Korea, Rotterdam and Beijing.”
Knobel explained that his family has been growing wheat for several generations in Jefferson County, and that he has been working with wheat since 1985. He is grateful to have the opportunity to meet the international trade team members, and to explore his family farms with them.
“I like to have them here and to be as local as they can,” said Knobel. “This is all about education. They have the chance to see a wheat farm. It’s great to build strong relationships with our friends from Nigeria. People like to do business with people they know and trust, and that’s what it’s all about. I think it’s a good experience for everyone involved. The Wheat Board has been instrumental in making this happen and U.S. Wheat has contacts throughout the world. I think everyone involved gets to come away with a positive experience.”