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NDTO News Article

NDTO Facilitates South America Virtual Trade Mission

The NDTO facilitated a virtual trade mission to South America with seven specialty crop producers and processors from North Dakota. Meetings took place in late July and early August, with more than 60 meetings. Chile, Colombia and Peru participated with great interest in ND specialty crops. In 2019, ND producers and processors exported more than $7 million in peas, lentils, and chickpeas to these three countries.

The virtual mission came to fruition as a result of the travel restrictions to South America, as the intended trade mission was set for spring 2020. Shifting with the current state of travel, NDTO is adapting to connecting businesses with international partners and continue to assist companies with their global business goals. Companies are eager to find ways to make connections and eager to continue doing business in this unique environment.

“While a virtual mission is no substitute for a trade mission, it is a means where our businesses can get connected to buyers and build relationships.” said Drew Combs, North Dakota Trade Office’s Executive Director, “NDTO is doing what we can to accommodate the situation in the world.”  He goes on to say that the virtual sphere can work well for some things, but international trade often requires meeting people, shaking hands, and getting out there to build relationships. “People still want to touch, smell, and see where things are actually produced before any sales are made.”

With limitation on travel, Combs and the NDTO team are continuing to connect buyers and sellers for conversations, introductions and start to establish relationships, so when the time comes for travel, some foundations are already built. “For North Dakota to stay competitive in the world market,” Combs says, it needs to get out and make relationships, not sit idle. “There really is no substitute for a face to face meetings. This is a band-aid but, this is the best we can do right now.” Throughout the virtual trade mission, companies met with prescreened buyers with clear objectives, as well as a team dedicated moderation, notes and translations to contribute to success overall of making connections.

Funding for this project comes from the ND Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block grant and will be utilized to increase market visibility and competitiveness of this specialty crops including peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas on a global scale.”

If your company is interested in future specialty crop projects, please contact Jiwon Kim at For questions on applying for grants funds, please contact Amanda Nordick at

Funding for the Virtual Trade Mission to South America with NDTO was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant North Dakota (DA02321ACT08). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.