A trade team from the Philippines’ burgeoning milling industry recently paid a visit to Montana’s wheat farms to grow ties between the state and the Southeast Asian nation. The visit took place August 4-6, and was hosted by the United States Wheat Associates and the Montana Wheat and Barely Committee. Similar to the program North Dakota soybean producers organized for ASEAN buyers last year, the trade group toured farms where they looked at hard red winter and hard red spring wheat crops. In addition, the group toured a wheat-breeding research facility, export elevators, and the Montana State Grain Lab.
These trade visits highlight the growing importance of the Philippines and the broader ASEAN region to the economies of wheat-producing states like Montana and North Dakota. Montana exports about $107 million worth of agricultural products to the region, while 1,550 jobs are directly or indirectly supported by trade exports to ASEAN. And because the Philippines is expanding its milling industry through the construction of new mills and more efficient management, Montana hopes to benefit its wheat producers by cementing strong ties with the island nation and its growing appetite for American products. Some of the rising demand can be attributed to a growing middle class in the region and the impending ASEAN economic integration in December, 2015.
In 2011, the United States exported about $9.6 billion worth of agricultural products to ASEAN member nations—then, the sixth-largest export destination for American farm produce. This year, the region accounts for nearly 20% of total US wheat sales. According to data from the USDA, the Philippines bought 1.8 million metric tons of wheat from the US in 2011. This year, that number has increased to 2.4 million metric tons, the third largest buyer, behind only Japan and Mexico.
Clarence Cabanero is a recent graduate from American University and a research intern at the East West Center