Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring led seven North Dakota food companies to the Philippines last month with the goal of increasing North Dakota’s market share of commodities within the Philippine market. The trade mission introduced Filipino food buyers to the taste and health benefits of North Dakota specialty crops and soybeans. Meetings and events were held March 20-23 with the mission culminating at the inaugural North Dakota – Philippines ‘Better for You Food Ingredients’ Conference and Exhibition.
The North Dakota Trade Office (NDTO) partnered with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA FAS) Manila Office, the Northern Crops Institute (NCI), North Dakota Soybean Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council to make this trade mission a success.
North Dakota companies were separated into two tracks — specialty crops and soybeans — with meetings and events organized for each. Trade mission events began in Manila with USDA FAS market briefings, tours of local supermarkets and one-on-one meetings. Tuesday, March 21 was spent meeting with Filipino food buyers, touring food processing facilities and meeting United States Embassy officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines, Sung Y. Kim. On Wednesday, March 22 North Dakota soybean exporters traveled to the Asia Grain Transportation Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam while North Dakota specialty crop exporters continued to meet buyers in the Philippines.
Additionally, Commissioner Goehring met with Undersecretary Barba from the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry, and Undersecretary Serrano from the Philippines Department of Agriculture to look at ways in which to partner with North Dakota, as well as how to deal with any regulatory issues.
The trade mission’s busy schedule was capped off with the inaugural North Dakota-Philippines ‘Better for You Food Ingredients’ Conference & Exhibition in Manila on March 23. The conference and exhibition drew approximately 100 attendees from various Philippine food industries such as traders, importers, food manufacturers, R&D specialists and food scientists.
“The Philippines is a youthful, growing, English-speaking population with close ties to the U.S.,” said Commissioner Goehring. “They’re interested in the high nutritional value, specifically the protein content, of North Dakota’s specialty crop products. Their middle class is quickly growing and pursuing foods with the health benefits that our commodities offer.”
During the conference, NCI food scientist Natsuki Fujiwara presented an educational program on the many uses for North Dakota’s crops. Fujiwara focused on pulses, pulse ingredients, pulse nutrition and product trends for an audience of Filipino food buyers and processors. Following the educational program, a professional Filipino chef carried out live preparation of Filipino recipes using North Dakota ingredients.
The exhibition portion gave North Dakota specialty crop companies further opportunities to show their high-quality products to potential buyers with table-top exhibits and one-on-one meetings.
This was the third North Dakota trade mission to the Philippines. NDTO led missions to the market in 2012 and 2014. A North Dakota-Philippines reverse trade mission was held in 2007.
Trade mission participants were able receive reimbursement for approved travel expenses through the NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program, a reimbursement program authorized by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through the USDA. The NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program provides funding to eligible business concerns to increase global market visibility and competitiveness of the North Dakota specialty crop sector.
The North Dakota Trade Office is a membership-based, private/public partnership that provides education, research, advocacy, organization, and leadership so that NDTO members and North Dakota companies can increase exports and grow their international business.