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NDTO News Article

Colombia buyers eager for business with N.D. suppliers

BISMARCK, N.D. – Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple and officials of the North Dakota Trade Office reported Friday that members of a trade delegation to Colombia and Peru are negotiating to supply some of the countries’ largest food buyers with North Dakota-grown peas and lentils.

Four North Dakota companies are participating in the week-long trip, including three agribusinesses that produce and market peas and lentils. Greg Moll, sales manager for West-Fargo-based Roll-a-Ramp, also is taking part in the trade mission.

Representatives from each of the three agribusinesses said their trip to Colombia will generate initial sales that they expect to increase once the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is ratified.

“These are better prospects than I could have hoped for,” said Justin Flaten, president of JM Grain in Garrison, N.D. “Every single one is a legitimate buyer we can do business with.”

Food buyers in these high-demand markets want to buy North Dakota-grown dry peas and lentils to diversify their supply source – supplies currently provided almost exclusively by Canadian processors, said Todd Drennan, a Colombia-based attaché with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“The buyers appear to be tough negotiators, yet they have all indicated that they want new suppliers,” North Dakota Trade Office Executive Director Susan Geib said.

The state’s agribusinesses are meeting with some of the Colombia’s largest supermarket chains, specialty food processors and food importers.

“We’ve found new specialty markets today,” said Kevin Kvamme, general manager of West Dakota Feed and Seed of Ross, N.D. “They like our quality and want to buy from us to broaden their supply chain.”

Some of the food buyers also are asking for price quotes for other commodities including wheat flour and pastas, Geib said.

Dalrymple and Roll-a-Ramp’s Greg Moll met on Friday with Jesus Maria Sanchez, president of Colombia’s Paralympics and Colombia’s Deputy Transportation Minister. Roll-a-Ramp manufactures portable access ramps. Moll is negotiating to supply access ramps for use in public busses throughout Colombia.

“I was pleased to refer one of our great manufacturers to the Deputy Minister,” Dalrymple said. “They were assured that Roll-a-Ramp has a great track record.”
In 2006, Colombia imported peas and lentils valued at $28 million. Canada supplied 97 percent of the commodities. Peru imported peas and lentils valued at nearly $20 million dollars in 2006. Canada supplies about 60 percent of the market while U.S. producers have gained 40 percent of the market share.

A trade agreement reached between the United States and Colombia, but awaiting Congressional ratification, calls for the immediate elimination of tariffs on more than 80 percent of U.S. exports including dried peas, lentils, beef, wheat, soybeans and other commodities.

“The (Colombian) buyers we met with today are anxiously awaiting the free trade agreement,” Flaten said. “They ask why the United States is holding it up.”

A similar trade agreement finalized between the United States and Peru in December will greatly expand export opportunities for U.S. farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service providers. Under terms of the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial goods to Peru will enter duty-free, with remaining tariffs to be phased out within 10 years. More than two-thirds of current U.S. farm exports will be duty free immediately upon the trade deal’s implementation.

The trade mission’s delegates completed individual business meetings in Bogota on Friday and will leave Saturday to attend a busy schedule of meetings with pre-qualified, potential buyers in Lima, Peru on Monday and Tuesday. The delegation will return to North Dakota Wednesday.

Companies participating in the Columbia and Peru trade mission are:

JM Grain, Garrison, N.D.
Paulson Premium Seed, Bowman, N.D.
West Dakota Feed and Seed, Ross, N.D.
Roll-A-Ramp, West Fargo, N.D.
Dakota Growers Pasta, Carrington, N.D.

“Missions like this and others help to explain the 34 percent rate of growth in North Dakota’s foreign trade, the highest rate of growth in the country, according to the U.S. Commercial Service,” Dalrymple said. “Establishing business and government contacts such as we are in Colombia and Peru will eventually result in increased commerce for North Dakota producers and manufacturers in South America and around the world.”