Japanese flour-milling executives received a first-hand look at California’s wheat industry recently, and Golden State producers hope their visit will lead to increased export opportunities.

The team of six Japanese businessmen met with different sectors of the West Coast grain trade - from wheat breeders to farmers to exporters in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho - during a trip sponsored by the U.S. Wheat Associates.

They discussed factors including supply-chain and quality-assurance systems face-to-face with the Americans.

“U.S. Wheat Associates sponsors these trade teams from various countries that purchase our wheat,” said California wheat grower Roy Motter of Brawley. “Half of the wheat grown in the U.S. is exported. Japan is typically the number one market for U.S. wheat.”

Motter is the new chairman of the U.S. Wheat Associates board of directors effective in June, and the first Californian to serve in that position. He also chairs the California Wheat Commission board.

“We have trade teams visit us since foreign buyers like to see where their wheat is coming from,” Motter said.

The Japanese delegation was accompanied by Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya, director of the U.S. Wheat Associates office in Tokyo. He said the milling executives are from small- to medium-size mills which belong to the Cooperatives of All Japan Flour Millers.

Utsunomiya says the co-op members use about 20 percent of the five million tons of wheat they import annually from the U.S. Most of the mills are in major port areas, including Tokyo.