Officials from four North Dakota agri-businesses embarked on a trade mission to Europe Saturday, Oct. 15, to forge new business relationships and expand their sales in the European marketplace.
The company officials are meeting with 16 major food processors and importers of dry peas and lentils in France, Spain and Italy Oct. 17 – 26. The North Dakota Trade Office and the North Dakota Dry Pea and Lentil Association have identified those countries as strong markets for the commodities.
Spain, where drought has ravaged many of the nation’s crops, may hold the most promise for new and long-term sales of feed peas, said Eric Bartsch, executive director of the Dry Pea and Lentil Association.
Spain typically imports about 18 million bushels of feed peas annually, but could rely on other nations to supply as much as 29 million bushels this year.
The four North Dakota companies will meet with major food buyers in all three countries, hoping to break into an export market dominated by Canada, said Larry White, the Dry Pea and Lentil Association’s marketing director.
Canada is the largest supplier of peas to Spain, France and Italy, while U.S. annual exports make up less than 1 percent of that market. Last year, about 80 percent of the peas shipped to Spain were grown in Canada, White said.
“We’re after a bigger slice of the market,” Bartsch said. “The ultimate goal is to come up with sales, but our business is based on relationships that we need to develop first.”
North Dakota exports more than 80 percent of the dry peas and lentils it produces. The export market will become more important as the state’s acreage of both crops grows, Bartsch said.
North Dakota produces more peas than any other state, and is the nation’s second-largest producer of lentils. The state’s farmers planted 540,000 acres of peas last spring – 240,000 acres more than in 2004. The state’s lentil acreage increased by 40,000 acres this year.
Company reps taking part in the trade mission are: Les Paulson of Paulson Premium Seed in Bowman, Jerome Knudson of Superior Grain in Crosby, Kevin Kvamme of West Dakota Feed and Seed in Ross and Marvin and Beverly Flaten of JM Grain in Garrison. White and James Burgum, program coordinator in Gov. John Hoeven’s office, will assist the group.
On Oct. 27, the trade team’s last day in Europe, the group will meet with Foreign Agriculture Service officials in the U.S. Embassy in Paris to learn more about their market opportunities in Europe.
The trade mission was coordinated by the state Trade Office and the Dry Pea and Lentil Association.
“Trade missions are one of many tools we are using to increase the exports of North Dakota goods and services,” state Trade Office Executive Director Susan Geib said.
“As we learned from our trips to Taiwan, Japan and China, establishing business relationships is an important part of expanding overseas trade for North Dakota products,” said Gov. John Hoeven. “We are laying the groundwork for new markets in a part of the world that has real possibilities for North Dakota producers.”
Since its formation in 2004, the non-profit Trade Office has provided international market research and international management services for many North Dakota companies, helping them identify export markets best suited for their products and services.
The Trade Office also has built a large network of export service providers – experts dedicated to North Dakota and ready to help companies realize and capitalize on export opportunities. The Trade Office works closely with a host of private organizations and government agencies including the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Commercial Service s to ensure that businesses get the support they need to expand into the global marketplace.
The North Dakota Dry Pea and Lentil Association works to develop the dry pea, lentil and chick pea industries through market development, education, coordinating research and government affairs.