NOTCHING UP a healthy 20 percent growth, wheat purchases by Taiwan are at a record high this calendar year. With the latest purchase of 34,000 metric tons (MT), Taiwan has purchased 1,026,500 MT of U.S. wheat, marking the first time they have hit the million ton level.

Thus far in 2000, buyers in Taiwan have purchased a total of 1,088,500 MT from all sources, including a 94 percent market share for the United States, 3 percent for Canada (34,000 MT) and 3 percent for Australia (28,000 MT).

Last May, declaring that trade relations with the U.S. must be maintained and strengthened, the Taiwan Flour Mills Association of the Republic of China committed to purchasing 1.5 million to 1.7 MMT of U.S. wheat for the two-year period 2000- 2001. The pace of this year's purchases exceed their commitment.

"We look forward to building on this relationship," Nelson Denlinger, U.S. Wheat Associates vice president, told the Taiwan delegation during a ceremony last spring when Taiwan's purchasing commitment was documented.

"Last year (1999) Taiwan exceeded their commitment, and we sincerely hope you turn that into a habit."

In 1999, the United States garnered a 92 percent market share of Taiwan's wheat imports, or 903,100 metric tons out of estimated total imports of 981,000 MT.

Taiwan's purchases exceeded commitments made by the Taiwan Flour Millers Association in the 1998 letter of intent in which they pledged to purchase 750,000 to 850,000 tons in 1999. Their traditional commitment had to be postponed in 1999 because of Taiwan's devastating earthquake.

Taiwan reports its imports on a calendar year basis, whereas the U.S. reports sales on a marketing year basis.

Source: U.S. Wheat Associates. USWA is the industry's export market development organization, working in over 100 countries on behalf of America's wheat growers.