MANILA — An intense lobby by the US Wheat Associates (USWA) to kick out Turkey soft and hard flour out of small Philippine bakeries and noodle manufacturers has been going on for decades.
USWA had pressured Canadian wheat growers to stop pushing for a bigger share of the Philippines several decades ago after a Filipino representative of Manitoba-based wheat growers attempted to win supply contracts with General Milling Corp. (GMC) which is based in Cebu.
“The US government talked with Ottawa and told agricultural officials that Canada should not get 30 percent of the GMC market, otherwise retaliatory measures will be implemented against farm exports to the US,” the Filipino businessman said.
This, he explained, “scuttled my plan to sell cheaper wheat for Filipino food processors in Cebu and elsewhere. Worse, even covert operatives of the US started snooping on me.”
His revelation has prompted calls for an investigation by the Philippine House of Representatives into the operations of USWA, which has close links with the US Embassy and operates in many Asian countries.
It had been tagged as responsible for spreading false information about wheat sourced from countries other than the US, with yarns about “toxic flour” ripping through the Philippines and Indonesia.
Today, the USWA is working hand-in-glove in maintaining its monopoly of the Philippine market together with the Philippine Association of Flour Millers, Inc. (Pafmil), which operates like an oligopoly in keeping market prices at high levels.
US wheat prices are higher than those charged by Canadian producers and the USWA, which acts as the lobby group of subsidized US farmers, has been seeking to wean away a number of countries from producers like Turkey, which can source its wheat from nearby countries and process it for export to the nations like the Philippines.
Turkish flour is regarded as “designer flour” that costs cheaper than its US counterpart.
US farmers are heavily subsidized, with wheat growers, hog raisers, chicken breeders and cattle farms getting billions of dollars in annual support under the US Farm Bill.
Former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, now chairman of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said that chicken growers in Georgia get their corn shipped down the Mississippi River through US Army boats for free.
Hog and cattle raisers also enjoy a slew of benefits, ranging from cuts in feed prices, better insurance coverage, state veterinary assistance and marketing help.
The Philippines continues to be a big market for US poultry and hog exporters and those who supply shrimp broodstocks, mainly from Hawaii, and parent lines of improved poultry breeds, from Georgia and nearby states.
Wheat growers enjoy a variety of assistance from the US federal government, particularly now that political instability and climate change have ruined wheat farms in many nations, particularly in Europe.