Meet Arie Wessells - South African Grain Buyer for Pioneer Foods Speaking to Quality of US WheatTue, 19 Jun 2018 11:17:17 CDT
Grain industry officials from several African countries have been travelling across the Southern Great Plains last week and into this week through Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas meeting with leaders here in the regional wheat industry. One of those included in this trade team being led by the US Wheat Associates, is Arie Wessells of Pioneer Foods, representing millers and bakers from South Africa. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays sat down with Wessells as the group passed through the Sooner State to learn a little bit about his nation’s needs when it comes to purchasing wheat. Listen to their complete conversation, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It’s a very competitive market that we operate in,” Wessells said about his profession, talking about how he makes his decisions when purchasing grain. “What’s available globally, those are the limited options. Some countries have a drought or whatever and takes them out of the equation. Germany for instance had severe flooding in the previous season. So, that took them out of the equation.”
Serving what he describes as a ‘bread market’ in South Africa, Wessells looks for grain with high water absorption characteristics and good gas producing potential - which makes the best quality bread. To meet this need, Wessells says he typically concentrates on sourcing Hard Red Winter wheat, often from the US when he can get it.
“It features very strongly. It’s a very sought-after commodity,” he said about American wheat. “Like most other wheat in the world, there are things we would like to change, but we have to accept what we can get, but it’s good to have American wheat on the list.
“We have in the past also brought in shipments of Hard White Wheat, with a great deal of success, but unfortunately it’s not a consistently available commodity… which is a pity.”
Give or take, Wessell says his company, Pioneer Foods, employs over 9,200 people and produces processed end-products for direct sale to consumers including bread items and other food staples. While there is a growing gluten-free market in South Africa, Wessells says it is likely less than one percent of the total demographic served. Primarily, his company has chosen to concentrate on traditional food items and has stepped away from gluten-free products to allow niche industries to fulfill those specific consumer needs.
Read about or listen to a related story featuring the organizer of this South African trade team, Gerald Theus of US Wheat Associates, by clicking or tapping here.
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