Monday, February 7, 2011

Idaho wheat producers predict stable market amid Egypt unrest

by Justin Corr
Posted on February 4, 2011 at 5:02 PM

IDAHO -- The unrest in Egypt has some people worrying about their crops right here in Idaho, specifically, wheat.

Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat. Meanwhile, Idaho is in the top 10 of states in the union for exporting wheat. So some of that crop that pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the state economy depends on buyers that are right now in the midst of a possible revolution.

That raised concerns with Sam White, chief operating officer of the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative. He's worried that changes in the Egyptian government could mean an anti-American shift, stopping all U.S. wheat imports into the country.

White told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News that, "We want that Egyptian demand, it's a vital part of the market...they buy a lot of wheat from the world, so it's vital they keep buying it."

However, producers in the area we talked to, weren't too worried.

"Given the global nature of Idaho wheat... well, U.S. wheat and Idaho wheat production in general, I think we'll be alright," said Travis Jones, Executive Director of the Idaho Grain Producers Association.

Jones says the demand for U.S. and Idaho wheat around the world remains strong.

"Worldwide, the demand for wheat is high," said Jones. "The supply of other major wheat-producing countries is down, due to weather conditions, mostly. But in Idaho, we're looking really good. In fact, our wheat will be up, or is expected to be up this year. And prices are good. So, there's a lot of optimism with Idaho wheat producers."

Jones believes whoever is in charge after the dust settles in Egypt will need Idaho wheat.

"There's a long history of a relationship there, not only with their government, but with some of their private industry," said Jones. "So we think we can get across those hurdles and keep this high quality Idaho wheat continuing over to the Middle East area."

Another reason local producers are optimistic is the demand there for the specific type of wheat grown here. Soft white wheat is the most popular wheat produced in Idaho. That type is used in flat breads, which are commonly eaten in Egypt.

Idaho produces over 100 million bushels of wheat each year. The state's 2009 wheat crop was valued at $512 million.

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