North Dakota hosted over 120 international visitors from more than 10 countries as part of the Big Iron International Visitors Program, the portion of the Big Iron Farm Show connecting international equipment buyers with North Dakota businesses. The International Visitors Program (IVP) ran Sept. 13-15 and was organized by the North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) with the cooperation of the U.S. Commercial Service. Since 2007, the NDTO’s Big Iron IVP has brought over 950 international guests to North Dakota.
“Farmers around the world are in need of equipment that will produce food faster and more efficiently in order to feed an ever-expanding population,” said Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, chairman of the NDTO Board of Directors. “The Big Iron International Visitors Program, which has been going strong for 10 years now, matches international visitors in need of high quality agricultural products and services with our innovative North Dakota manufacturers, producers and suppliers.”
Delegations from countries including Angola, Ethiopia, Australia, Belarus, Guatemala, Russia and Ukraine gathered to attend company presentations, equipment demonstrations, farm and ranch tours, and educational events. On average, representatives from 30 North Dakota companies participate every year to meet and establish business relationships with potential buyers through the Big Iron IVP. Company participants may include agricultural equipment manufacturers, agriculture service providers, commodity storage and processing equipment manufacturers, educational institutions, and research specialists.
This year’s IVP hosted its largest delegation yet from Africa. A group numbering more than 80 traveled from Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia and Nigeria to meet with North Dakota companies and establish business ties. Delegates from Angola comprised the largest share of the group, with about 55 agribusiness leaders, association representatives and government personnel having traveled to Fargo from the southern African country.
Angola’s government has prioritized agricultural development in recent years, after sinking oil prices contributed to the petroleum rich country’s economic downturn. Agriculture is the population’s primary livelihood, with the vast majority of the Angolan workforce farming the country’s fertile soils on small plots of land. However, domestic production does not meet demand and more than half of Angola’s food is imported. The Angolan government is leading efforts to boost food production by supporting numerous large agricultural projects and companies. The need for productive agricultural practices and equipment led to the sizeable delegation participating in the Big Iron IVP this year after recruitment by the new U.S. Commercial Service office in capital city Luanda.
In 2015, North Dakota companies exported 1,436 unique products to 146 different countries, totaling $3.89 billion of merchandise. As of June, North Dakota exports have increased in several markets in 2016. Export increases have occurred in Australia, Colombia, South Korea, Germany, China, Russia, Ethiopia, Argentina and Ukraine among other countries. North Dakota’s outreach to sub-Saharan African countries is visible with sales to Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia making it onto the ‘Top 25’ list of North Dakota export markets.
NDTO is a member-based, public-private organization dedicated to expanding North Dakota’s exports through advocacy, education and expertise. All trade missions and reverse trade missions are designed to assist North Dakota companies in finding potential partners and making overseas sales; these initiatives are open to the public.