U.S. wheat exports have struggled the past year as Russia has dominated the global wheat market even as world wheat supplies trend lower. The U.S. is still seeing trade to mainstay markets in the pacific rim and Mexico and Miguel Galdos with U.S. Wheat Associates says there may be opportunity in South America as well.
“Chile is the largest bread consumer in Latin America and the second largest bread consumer in the world,” says Galdos. “It’s over 90 kilos per person per year. We know that we cannot increase that number. It will be very difficult because you cannot eat bread while you are sleeping. But what we want is to maintain that level.”
But he says use of U.S. wheat for Chile’s aquaculture industry is a major demand opportunity.
“We identified that Hard Red Winter has a particular performance for the production of feed for salmons,” Galdos said. “This opened up a complete new market for us in South America. Also, we have been able to identify small mills in the south of Chile that they never imported wheat from the U. S. And today we have identified, as I mentioned, 10 milling companies that today are importing U. S. wheat.”
“One of the interesting stories is that a lot of high protein hard red winter wheat is going into fish food,” said Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations “In Ecuador, specifically, they’re using it to feed shrimp. And in southern Chile, they’re using it to feed salmon.”
Aquaculture is a rapidly growing market in South America, thanks to imports from an equally expanding Chinese market. Salmon are top feeders, so feed pellets must float so salmon will come to the surface and eat. Shrimp are the opposite — they are bottom feeders — but feed pellets still need to sink slowly. HRW wheat fits the bill in helping with buoyancy and providing high protein content.
“They use high protein HRW wheat because they want higher protein content for the fish food,” Harries said. “They can also use soybean meal, but wheat has a viscosity that makes the pellet float. So that’s a market we’ll certainly be exploring and making sure we’re getting them the product they want to meet these needs.”
Galdos says U.S. Wheat Associates believes the salmon feed industry could double American wheat exports to Chile.