NDTO News Article

ND businesses begin follow-up to S. Africa mission

Members of a North Dakota trade mission are following up on business leads generated during their trip to South Africa May 11-16. Delegates said they expect the trade mission and subsequent business talks to produce sales and long-term business relationships.

Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Trade Office staff directed the week-long trade mission which included representatives from six North Dakota companies. The trade mission was supported by the South Africa offices of the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service and the U.S. Commercial Service in Fargo.

“The timing of the mission was excellent because South Africa’s growing economy is increasingly supporting demand for value-added foods and other goods produced in North Dakota,” Dalrymple said. “Our delegates have indicated that their business contacts are very promising and we fully expect to realize new export business as a result of our efforts in South Africa.”

Mission delegates met with potential customers and distributors of agriculture equipment, value-added crops, processed foods, aviation equipment and medical equipment. Delegates spent most of their time with pre-qualified business contacts in Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial center, but also traveled to the coastal cities of Cape Town and Durban to meet potential clients and business partners, said Mark Johnson, the Trade Office’s director of international business management.

Delegates included Dean Atchison, president of Spectrum Aeromed, a Fargo-based company that designs and manufactures life support equipment and custom medical interiors for fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft.

“My assessment of the trade mission is quite favorable,” Atchison wrote in a post-mission report to Spectrum Aeromed executives.

In the report, Atchison said the trade mission enabled him to meet with representatives from 13 companies that provide or support air-ambulance services throughout southern Africa. Atchison said Spectrum Aeromed will develop a market strategy and timeline for Africa that will include sales goals.

“The market research and contacts were prepared up front,” he said. Everything was laid out which enabled us to get out there and focus on the face-to-face meetings with our contacts.”

Company representatives from JM Grain, of Garrison, N.D., and Paulson Premium Seed, Bowman, N.D., are following up on sales leads since meeting with some of the country’s largest importers of navy beans, green peas and lentils.  In Durban, South Africa, they negotiated sale prices at Olam International, a company that buys and sells pulse crops and other commodities in South Africa and more than 50 other countries.

Food buyers in South Africa are particularly interested in North Dakota-grown peas and lentils, said Jessica Kolden, a sales and logistics representative at JM Grain.

“A lot of the companies we met with prefer U.S. quality,” Kolden said. “It’s certainly a price conscious market, but there is definitely opportunity there.”

Canada and China supply much of South Africa’s pulse crops, but major food buyers are looking for alternative sources that can source higher quality foods and shorter transit times, Kolden said.

South Africa is modernizing its infrastructure and increasingly turning to the world marketplace to help supply foods, high-tech equipment and other goods. South Africa’s market size (population 49 million) and pro-business environment also make it a logical choice for companies seeking a stepping-stone to expand business on the African continent. South Africa is the most advanced, broad-based and productive economy in Africa, the U.S. Commercial Service reports.

Companies participating in the trade mission were:

  • Spectrum Aeromed, Fargo, N.D.
  • JM Grain, Garrison, N.D.
  • Roll-a-Ramp, West Fargo, N.D.
  • Dakota Growers Pasta, Carrington, N.D.
  • Sund Manufacturing Co., Glenburn, N.D.
  • Paulson Premium Seed, Bowman, N. D.