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NDTO News Article

Big Iron draws international buyers

The North Dakota Trade Office hosted its largest delegation of international buyers who attended the 2009 Big Iron Farm Show and other events designed to assist the state’s agribusinesses in expanding their international sales.

About 170 key buyers of farm and ranch equipment from 15 foreign countries attended the Big Iron Farm Show and a week of programs and events that connected buyers from around the world with North Dakota’s farm equipment manufacturers and dealers. The 2009 International Visitors Program was held Sept. 14-19.

“The International Visitors Program is an effective way to showcase North Dakota’s agricultural expertise and expand our global reach,” Gov. John Hoeven said. “This program is one of many efforts we have developed through the North Dakota Trade Office to promote our quality products on the world market and to generate new opportunities within the state.”

New to the Big Iron International Visitors program was a special focus on North Dakota’s livestock industry. A national effort underway in Kazakhstan to develop the oil-rich nation’s livestock industry has created significant opportunities for the state’s cattle breeders, said Larry White, the Trade Office’s international agribusiness manager.

“The government of Kazakhstan has set aside millions of dollars to help build its livestock industry and its Ministry of Agriculture has developed programs that encourage the importation of livestock and all of the technology needed to sustain long-term growth,” White said.

About 25 representatives of large farm and ranch corporations from Kazakhstan toured feedlots throughout North Dakota and met with cattle breeders and livestock scientists. In all, the International Visitors Program attracted agribusiness leaders from 15 countries including Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey, South Africa, Uzbekistan, Sweden and Romania.

The Trade Office’s initial goal was to recruit about 60 pre-qualified equipment buyers, given the weakened global economy. Credit crunches in some key markets have cut into North Dakota’s export sales, but international interest and demand remains strong for the state’s agriculture equipment and expertise, Trade Office Executive Director Susan Geib said.

“What we’re finding time and again is that there is growing international interest in North Dakota’s agricultural know-how,” Geib said. “In many of our key markets, they grow the same crops and share the same production challenges so they are coming here to become better equipped and more knowledgeable about large-scale farming and ranching.”

International guests attended Big Iron, equipment demonstrations, farm and ranch tours, buyer-seller receptions and other events. At Big Iron, the Trade Office manages the International Visitors Pavilion where guests held talks with local company reps in private meeting rooms  and  attended educational seminars. Guests also attended a buyer-seller reception at Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s farm near Casselton, N.D., and learned more about North Dakota agriculture at the Northern Crops Institute.

Registered guests included Recep Konuk, chairman of Pankobirlik, Turkey’s largest sugar beet cooperative, and Igor Potapenko, president of the Moscow-based Razgulay Group. The Razgulay Group is a Russian farming corporation that generated nearly $1 billion (USD) last year from the production and processing of grains, sugar beets and other crops. Turkey’s Pankobirlik sugar beet cooperative has 1.7 million beet growers and operates seven cooperative sugar processing factories. Konuk and 10 other Pankobirlik representatives are interested in sugar beet equipment, sourcing seed for sunflower production and canola harvesting equipment.

The Trade Office began hosting international buyers during Big Iron in International 2007, following a trade mission that brought several leaders from North Dakota agriculture equipment companies to Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia.

“The idea was to bring potential customers to North Dakota where they can see first-hand why we lead the nation in the production of so many crops and how our equipment companies help make that happen,” Geib said. It enables us to show the world North Dakota’s agricultural expertise and it gets our agribusinesses in front of serious buyers,”

Big Iron, held at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, features more than 800 exhibitors and attracts about 70,000 visitors each year.